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PESHAWAR: The Provincial Election Commission on Tuesday directed the district returning officers and deputy commissioners of six districts to remove hurdles to participation of women in the polling process.

The directives were issued after media reported possible agreement among the local politicians in these areas to stop women from casting their votes.

It is worth mentioning that prominent rights activist Tahira Abdullah has also brought this issue into the notice of the provincial election commissioner.

Directives issued to DCs of Swat, Lower Dir, Upper Dir, Shangla, Swabi and Battagram

The Provincial Election Commission issued the directives to the district returning officers and deputy commissioners of Swat, Lower Dir, Upper Dir, Shangla, Swabi and Battagram, according to a statement.

It said that media reported that in some conservative parts, women might not come out from their homes to cast their votes that might affect the overall turnout.

“As you are aware that disenfranchisement is an offence as provided under chapter X of the Election Act, 2017,” reads the directives of the Provincial Election Commission issued to the DROs and DCs and also shared with media.

Section 9 (1) of the said Act says: “If the turnout of women voters is less than 10 per cent of the total votes polled in a constituency, the commission may presume that the women voters have been retrained through an agreement from casting their votes and may declare, polling at one or more polling stations or election in the whole constituency, void.”

The Provincial Election Commission has asked the respective DROs and DCs to probe and address to avoid any such infamous and illegal agreements that barred women from casting their votes on the polling day.

Meanwhile, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Commission on the Status of Women has set up a women election monitoring cell to monitor full participation of women as voters and candidates in the election. The KPCSW is a statutory advisory body to the provincial government.

According to a statement, the election monitoring cell has received complaints that female voters in NA-36 of Lakki Marwat might be subjected to gender-based discrimination and violence.

It said that an agreement has been signed by the influential people of Kot Kashmir and Tori Khel area regarding barring women from casting votes. In Bega Tajazai area, the women might not poll their votes due to culture barriers.

“We are greatly concerns about this situation and would like special attention of the local administration to take preventive measures against the threats in the aforementioned electoral areas,” said the statement.

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2018