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PESHAWAR: Keeping in view low turnout at women polling stations in the 2018 elections, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Commission on the Status of Women and Aurat Foundation have urged the Election Commission of Pakistan to amend the condition of female votes for validity of polls and fix the turnout ratio at 20 per cent instead of 10 per cent to ensure participation of maximum women in the electoral process.

Addressing a conference at Peshawar Press Club on Wednesday, KPCSW Chairperson Neelum Toru and Aurat Foundation regional chief Shabina Ayaz said that instead of 10 per cent female votes, the turnout ratio should be increased to 20 per cent for validity of elections and all the political parties should award five per cent tickets to women candidates for general seats.

They pointed out some ambiguities in the Election Act, 2017 regarding low turnout, saying at many polling stations women had not polled their votes but ECP did not take any action over it.

They said that ECP should take notice of the non-seriousness of political parties as none of them fielded woman candidate in PK-23 Shangla where 13 persons were in the run.

Women commission, Aurat Foundation say 20pc turnout of female voters should be must for validity of election

Ms Toru said that women voters’ turnout increased due to fear of annulment of poll results. However, she said that cultural barriers and social taboos were still restricting women from using their right to vote in the province.

She blamed political parties for low turnout of women voters at a number of polling stations across the province, saying candidates did not take the issue serious during campaign. However, she said, no agreements were signed among the candidates to bar women from polling their votes.

Ms Toru said that lack of awareness about the Election Act, 2017 was another reason behind of low turnout of women voters. She demanded review of Election Act, 2017 and removal ambiguities about the election process.

She also demanded increase in number of women polling stations for the upcoming by-polls.

About PK-23 Shangla where ECP had ordered re-polling owing to low turnout of women voters, Shabina Ayaz said that women polled votes at only 12 polling stations in the constituency. She added that participation of women voters remained zero at maximum polling stations in PK-23 that created doubts about the electoral process.

Earlier, Ms Toru said that KPCSW and Aurat Foundation made agreement to support women’s participation in polls in four districts of the province including Peshawar, Kohat, Swabi and Bannu.

She said that the foundation extended technical assistance to KPCSW to constitute committees on status of women. She said that the committees played pivotal role in creating awareness among women voters in the targeted districts.

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2018