The National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) on Tuesday expressed reservations over the measures taken by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to ensure full participation of women in the electoral process.
“[The] ECP only addresses issues related to women participation in the electoral process after they are highlighted either by the media or others. It mostly doesn’t take any initiative on its own,” Khawar Mumtaz, chairperson for the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), told the media in a briefing.
Recently, the commission held a series of meetings to discuss threats to women’s suffrage in the forthcoming elections.
Mumtaz made it clear that the threats that women voters faced in the ‘42 no-go areas’ of Karachi, as well as the social restrictions on female voters in some parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh were tantamount to denying them the right to choose their representatives.
Against this backdrop, she said, the commission wants the ECP to provide a secure environment to women voters so that they have courage to come out from their homes to actively participate in the electoral process and not allow anyone else to determine who is entitled to vote or not.
The poll commission was urged to set up help desks in sensitive constituencies to redress women voters’ complaints. Such a move is likely to boost the confidence of women voters, according to her.
“The NCSW is also resolved to set up an Election Complaint Cell soon to receive complaints from women regarding the election process. NCSW members will join in monitoring in selected areas in association with other observers,” she said. A commission team will also meet ECP officials about its concerns.
The ECP should not ignore a large number of displaced persons from the tribal areas, many of whom are currently residing in refugee camps. It should make polling arrangements for them, she said.
The Commission also expressed concern over large number of women in remote rural areas and urban slums who are enthusiastic about the forthcoming elections and strongly desire to cast vote but can’t as they do not have their computerised national identity cards (CNICs).
“The ECP should focus on these women and provide them with CNICs as soon as possible to enable them to exercise their right to vote,” said Mumtaz.
NCSW expresses its disappointment at the failure of political parties to agree on a minimum 10% of female voters in a constituency for validating the poll in it. It is also dismayed at the low number of tickets awarded to women on general seats by political parties.
The experience of the past five years have seen women parliamentarians moving human rights and women’s rights legislation in the National Assembly and the skillful and balanced role of the female speaker.
NCSW salutes the brave women who have come forward to stand as independents in areas such as Bajaur and Dir as well as minorities in Thar.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2013.