UPPER DIR: Women went to polling stations in large numbers to exercise their franchise in Upper Dir on July 25 after decades tangibly increasing the overall voter turnout in the district.

According to the election results, more than 67,000 local women voted for the national and provincial assembly candidates.

The women had exercised their franchise last time in the 1977 general elections as they’re later stopped by political and religious parties under verbal agreements from participating in polls.

However, the women’s disenfranchisement ended in the July 25 elections as the Election Commission of Pakistan declared 10 per cent women vote mandatory in every polling station warning if that didn’t happen, election would be declared void.

They’d exercised their franchise last time in 1977

The move paved the way for the women’s participation in elections in the district.

In total, 67,995 women polled vote in the NA-5 constituency. They made 38 per cent of the total women voters in the constituency.

Likewise, 22,594 women exercised their franchise in PK-10 constituency, 21,372 in PK-11 and 23,777 in PK-12, showing higher women turnout in the district compared with other parts of the province and country.

Unlike past, the political parties ran campaigns this time around to encourage women to cast vote. They also held workshops for the women’s training and education on how to cast vote. And on the election day, the activists and supporters of political parties were seen take women to polling stations in vehicles.

The women also increased the overall voter turnout in the district from 25-30 per cent to 45-50 per cent.

They also caused surprise victories in many constituencies. The candidates, who got most women voters, won elections.

The women expressed happiness at getting the right to vote and said they would contest election next time besides exercising the franchise.

A woman contested election on general seat for the first time in the history of Upper Dir.

Hameeda Shahid was fielded by the PTI in PK-10.

The women said her nomination encouraged them to step out and vote for her and therefore, the PTI nominee got 10,904 votes to stand third in election.

Asifa Khatoon, 35-year-old resident of Usheri Darra area, welcomed the women’s enfranchisement and election nomination and said it had changed the electoral scenario in the region.

Gulshad, 50-year-old resident of Dir city, said she expected higher women turnout in next elections.

She said there was a high likelihood of women contesting elections on general seats in the district next time.

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2018