The Peshawar High Court (PHC) reserved judgment on a writ challenging the Election Commission of Pakistan’s decision to nullify by-poll results of PK-95 and holding re-election.
The bench, comprising PHC Chief Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel, was heard the petition. The petition was filed by Jamaat-e-Islami’s PK-95 Lower Dir candidate Aizazul Mulk Afkari.
Petitioner’s lawyer Ghulam Mohiuddin Malik said the constituency fell vacant after JI chief Sirajul Haq resigned and Afkari won by securing 20,888 votes in by-polls.
Malik argued women voluntarily abstained from voting during elections. He maintained civil society alleged around 53,000 women were registered but were not given the right to vote, based on a verbal agreement between local elders. He said according to activists, 38% population was not allowed to vote to influence elections results, which was not true.
He said ECP issued notice to contesting parties to explain their positions as to why women were not allowed to vote. Malik said members of civil society, including Farzana Bari, Shad Begum and Nusrat Begum recorded their statements with ECP. “While doing so, they claimed they personally visited the constituency and gathered information from people that women were barred from voting,” he added.
He informed the bench a female MNA had said women voluntarily abstained from voting due to their cultural norms. Malik contended none of the contesting parties challenged their decision nor confirmed any agreement [to prevent women from voting]. He argued despite all the evidence, ECP declared the election null and void and announced re-polling which was illegal.
The lawyer maintained the constituency is located on the border with Afghanistan where women do not vote due to cultural values. “Neither the ECP could not prove women were forcibly deprived of their right to vote nor there is any written agreement on the record,” he said.
Malik contended dismissing election results on basis of presumptions was illegal and requested the court to issue a notification declaring the JI petitioner a successful candidate.
ECP’s lawyer Shamail Ahmad Butt argued ECP was a supreme body having authority to take decisions related to elections. He said the ECP has the authority to look into affairs of elections.
According to Butt, not a single woman voted which proved they were deliberately kept out of the entire process. If the petitioner was affected by ECP’s decision, he should move the Supreme Court, argued Butt.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2016.