PESHAWAR, June 14: It was during the recent By-elections in Shangla for village / neighbourhood councils, where women were yet again deprived of their right to vote through an unholy alliance of local political leaders.
No women turned up to vote at the 14 polling stations in two village councils of Koz Kana and Sangrai as their voting was declared ‘against their culture’ as they still believe that it is the men who can make their right decision.
As Pakistan is inches closer to 2018 general election but the issue of women voting that has marred the 2013 election, is still persists and would stain the 2018 elections, if proper efforts were not made.
“it is very difficult to bring out women for voting,” said Aamna Sardar, Member Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly while talking to The News Eye “there is still a number of culture issue that prevent women using the democratic right.”
She added that even if women come to the political stations, they have to vote only those candidates, their father, brother and husbands as it is believed that only male can make the right decision. Sardar, who is the leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said that women wings of political parties can play a vital role in creating awareness among women and political mobilizing them.
There is still a big gender gap in total registered voters in country, says data of Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) it is identified that in 2013 general election on 26,000 census blocks women voters’ registration was even below 40pc mark.
More than 11 million women are missing from voters lists nationwide while in K-P, out of 6.6 million adult women, 1.8 million are yet to get CNIC and become a voter. “In every four adult women in K-P, One is not registered a citizen and voter,” reveal Fafen.
According the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), the women voting was hardly 12 percent of the total votes polled in the 2013 elections in the province.
Women voting were less then 5pc in district Dir due to “unholy alliance against women” by main contenders-Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and the Awami National Party in the by-election in PK-95 that women would not be allowed to vote.
Earlier Kohistan too, women voters were barred from exercising their voting on K-P assembly’s seat KP-61 in 2011 where only three women voters out of about 18,000 were able to cast their votes.
However, the issue is not limited to few constituencies, the women representation were everywhere very low. The women participation in politics has largely remained confined to reserving seats for them in National and provincial assemblies.
However, the election commission of Pakistan believe that no force could be used to bring women voters to polling stations, however, they are making efforts to take step that spur them to polling station.
“There is no system or law where the women can be forced to cast their vote,” said Babar Yaqoob General Secretary of the election commission of Pakistan during a press briefing at Peshawar. “We are making all efforts to ensure women participation.”
Citing article-25 of the constitution which provides that all citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection before the law and there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex.
Talking about participation of women in 2013 elections, he lamented that only 12 percent women in K-P voted “which is low”.
Referring to ECP efforts in this regard, he informed that ECP has written letters to political parties, who have representation in national assembly, to ensure the women participation in the election process and direct women wings of their respective parties to mobilize women voters for their rights. He warned the political parties that if women voting are less than 10 percent of the total vote polled on any constituency, the elections would be declared null and void.
Women constitutes about half of country’ population but their participation in the politics, important institution of society that is related to the power and decision making processes, remains unattended. Due to their lack active participation in democratic process women the whole cabinet is man dominated and they have no a little role in decision making. This week women members in K-P assembly presented a resolution demanding to include women MPA to provincial cabinet as minister, one as assistant and an advisor to chief minister.
Experts considered the major reason behind are the male dominated society as their ego does not permits women to enter politics.“In our societies, still woman are to free to take her own decisions,” said Shafeeq Gigyani, a social activities to The News Eye. He added that not only in voting but in all decision of life, she should have to right to take6 her own decision as per her free well.
Gigyani added that in Pakhtun areas especially in tribal areas; women are not even allowed to come out home alone. On the other hand, the religious leaders and clerks do not encourage their participation in voting as it believed that such decisions can only be taken by male in better position.
Talking about the role of political parties, he added that the role of the local leaders on the occasion of election gathered take a unanimous decision to stop women from voting, and usually a written agreement is made. He added there is little awareness as most of women have not yet even national identity cards or are not registered on the voter lists.
Shafeeq while talking about Dir, where women were not allowed to vote, said that it was religious clerks as well as the religious parties, just because, they don’t give much the equal status to women and are not ready to allow her an equal status.
“It is due to cultural issue that almost sixty percent of women votes were wasted,” said Sana Gulzar, an advocate said The News Eye. She added that she herself have performed duty during the 2013 election, there was no such system of Parda for women, there was insecurity, they have no transport system available that has discouraged women coming to poling stations.
“Obviously, if such low level issues were not solved, the women ration of participation will be very low again,” Speculated Gulzar. “There were a huge number of women came out for voting, but they had no facilities available.”