Machos Vs Women-Who shall cast vote?

Posted May 14th, 2015 at 7:36 pm (UTC+0)
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Behroz Khan
The women in Pakistan’s remote Dir town of Pakhtunkhwa province are standing up to what their men did to them in a recent election for the provincial legislative body. The machos there, left and right, barred around 47,000 women from casting votes in the election following their tribal instincts. And the beneficiary is, no one else, but a member of radical Jama’at-e-Islami_a party that has publicly supported al-Qaeda and Taliban.
This is also unprecedented that the Election Commission of Pakistan has taken up several petitions filed by individuals, civil society groups and even the Parliamentary Committee on Election Reforms recommended that if a certain percentage of women fail to cost votes in a constituency, the results should be declared null and void. The controversy emerged after the far right Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and the secular Awami National Party (ANP) together with others were blamed for barring women to poll votes in the by-elections of KP-95, Dir Lower. The ECP has so far withheld the result of the by-polls.
The provincial assembly seat fell vacant when Jamaat’s chief Siraj-ul-Haq chose to contest for the Senate and vacated his hometown constituency. According to the un-official results of the by-elections, JI’s Aizaz-ul-Mulk Afkari polled 18711 votes while ANP’s Bahadur Khan secured 16403 votes. Siraj-ul-Haq got more than 22000 votes in the 2013 general elections from the same constituency and Bahadur Khan lagged behind at about 11000 votes. Not a single woman was allowed to vote as the candidates held Jirga and reached a verbal agreement to keep the women away from polling booths.
The first petition was filed with ECP by ANP former parliamentarian Bushra Gohar, who was criticized by political opponents on the grounds that she approached the Election Commission after her party lost the polls to JI.
“I would have knocked at the doors of ECP even if ANP was a winner in the by-polls,” Bushra Gohar told VOA Deewa.
She was the guest of Deewa at Wagma Jalawan’s weekly show, Mirmano Ghag. Bushra Gohar together with other party activists forced ANP’s leadership to take action against 12 party workers who had signed a similar agreement with other parties in the previous elections at Shangla, the ancestral town of the Nobel Peace laureate and girls education world champion Malala Yousafzai.
“I even raised the issue on the floor of the National Assembly when our party winning candidate from Kohistan was blamed for barring women from polls,” she explained.
“This is a violation of the constitution and snatching the rights of women by men. We want to make sure that no such deals and agreements, either verbal or otherwise are taking place in the forthcoming Local Government (LG) elections,” said another civil society activist, Shad Begum. From Dir, Shad Begum is the recipient of the US State Department 2012 International Women of Courage Award.
Women activists fear men might deprive them from votes in the coming LG polls in Pakhtunkhwa province. Polls are scheduled on May 30, 2015.
Bushra Gohar was happy with the development and said that all the contesting candidates, the provincial chief secretary, the district returning officer and the election staff have been summoned by the ECP to explain how women failed to turn up at the polling stations. This is also reported that separate polling stations were not set up for women as the election staff had prior information that the Jirga has decided to bar women from costing votes.
The demand of the petitioners from the ECP is either to nullify the results of the by-polls altogether or arrange the polling booths throughout the constituency to enable women to cost their vote.
“We hope that Chief Election Commissioner, Sardar Raza will take action and will not allow this unconstitutional step to take precedence,” said Bushra Gohar.
The Chief Election Commissioner is a former Supreme Court Judge and enjoys a good reputation. His decision will be a landmark judgement. It will either stop the patriarchal trends in Pakistan’s elections for ever or will further suppress women’s say in the affairs of the state.

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