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PESHAWAR: The turnout of women voters remained lower than the minimum permissible percentage in two National Assembly and one provincial assembly constituency of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the adjoining erstwhile tribal areas.

These constituencies include NA-10 Shangla, NA-48 North Waziristan and PK- 23 Shangla I.

Under the law, the Election Commission of Pakistan is empowered to order re-polling in any polling station or declare the entire polls void in a constituency if the number of the women votes cast are less than 10 per cent of the total votes polled.

Losing candidates hope for re-polling, re-election

The development has given the losing candidates a hope that the ECP will order re-polling or re-election in their respective constituencies.

According to the provisional results compiled by the relevant returning officer (Form 47), the votes cast by women in NA-10 Shangla were 12,663, which was 9.8 percent of the total 128,302 votes cast in the constituency.

In PK-23 Shangla I, 3,505 of the total women voters exercise their franchise, which was only 5.01 percent of the total 69,827 votes polled there.

In NA-48 North Waziristan, which was recently merged with KP, only 6,364 women turned up to cast vote, which was 9.95 per cent of the total 63,954 votes cast there.

A total of 57,600 men cast vote in that constituency.

An official at the Election Commission of Pakistan told Dawn that under the Election Act, the ECP was empowered to take decision after consolidation of election results in the constituencies, whether to declare the result void or order re-polling in polling station(s).

He said currently, the returning officers had been consolidating election results under Section 95 of the Elections Act and would send the same to the ECP within 24 hours of the consolidation.

In NA-10 Shangla, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz candidate Ibadullah Khan won election by securing 34,070 votes against 32,665 votes got by the runner-up, Sadidur Rehman of the Awami National Party.

The voters in that constituency totaled 374,343, including 162,049 women and 212,294 men. A total of 115,639 male voters exercise their franchise there.

In PK-23, Shaukat Yousafzai of the PTI emerged victorious by receiving 17,399 votes against 15,533 votes secured by Mohammad Rashad Khan of the PML-N. The total registered voters in the constituency are 200,525, including 86,698 women and 113,827 women. A total of 66,322 men cast votes there on July 25.

Section 9 (1) of the Election act 2017 says, “if the Election Commission is satisfied that by reason of grave illegalities or violation of the provisions of this Act or the rules as have materially affected the result of the poll at one or more polling stations or in the whole constituency including implementation of an agreement restraining women from casting their votes, it shall make a declaration accordingly and call upon the voters in the concerned polling station or stations or in the whole constituency as the case may be, to recast their votes in the manner provided for by-elections.”

The explanation to the said section says if the turnout of women voters is less than 10 percent of the total votes polled in a constituency, the commission may presume that the women voters have been restrained through an agreement from casting their votes and may declare, polling at one or more polling stations or election in the whole constituency, void.

Meanwhile, the ANP and PTI workers in Shangla celebrated a Fafen report about low women voter turnout in the NA-10 constituency and hoped for a re-polling or re-election in the constituency.

ANP candidate Sadeedur Rehman said he was hopeful for re-poll as the July 25 elections were rigged in his constituency by the PML-N.

He said he would remain vigilant next time and would not allow the PML-N to rig the polls.

PTI candidate Waqar Ahmad, too, said he was optimistic for re-election.

He said the combined polling stations for men and women and violence on the election day over the women polling stations caused the low women turnout.

People in Shangla said they awaited the ECP announcement in that regard.

About NA-48 North Waziristan, an observer said there was disparity between the number of male and female voters as of the total 274,205 registered voters, 77,537 (28.27 pc) were women and 196,668 (71.72pc) men.

He said the vote disparity led to the percentage of votes cast by women voters to less than the specified numbers.

Winning candidate Mohsin Dawar had also complained that women polling stations were set up in faraway areas forcing women to walk many kilometers to cast vote.

— Shangla correspondent Umer Bacha also contributed to this report.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2018