ISLAMABAD: Recently compiled data on gender-wise voters turnout in July 25 general election reveals that women voting remained less than 10 per cent of the total votes at two National Assembly constituencies of Khyber Pakhtunkwa (K-P) a deficiency that may render results of polls for the seats invalid.
According to the elections laws, if the turnout of women voters is less than ten per cent of the total votes polled in a constituency, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is supposed to declare the results invalid and order re-poll. However, the ECP seems to have conveniently overlooked the results in these two constituencies.
At NA-10 Shangla only 9.66 per cent of the total votes were polled by women, compared to 88.21 per cent male votes. There were a total 374,343 registered voters in this constituency, out of which 128,302 votes were polled with an aggregate turnout of 34 per cent.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Ibad Ullah Khan was declared winner in a hotly contested election. He secured 34,070 votes, while the Awami National Party’s (ANP) Syedur Rehman got 32,665 votes. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Waqar Ahmed Khan and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal’s (MMA) Ameer Sultan had respectively bagged 27,832 and 20,800 votes.
The latest data of gender-wise votes uploaded on the ECP’s website reveals 115,639 (88.21 percent) male votes and only 12,663 (9.66) are female votes were polled in the constituency on the election day.
At the NA-48 Tribal area, a total of 64,055 votes were polled but only 6,354 (9.92 per cent) of them were cast by women. The rest of 57,600 votes (89.92 percent) belonged to men.
Overall turn out at this constituency, comprising former North Waziristan Agency, was only 23.32 per cent – one of the lowest in these elections. Mohsin Iqal, an independent who secured 16,496 votes, was declared winner amongst the 36 contestants. The area has a total 274,205 registered voters.
There are many constituencies where women voters’ turnout is less than 20 per cent. Since they cross the threshold of legal requirement, results in such constituencies stand valid. In the new election laws enacted last year, the ECP has been empowered to cancel results of a poll if it feels illegalities were committed.
Clause nine of the election laws reads; “Power of the Commission to declare a poll void – Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, if from facts apparent on the face of the record and after such enquiry as it may deem necessary, the Commission is satisfied that by reason of grave illegalities or such violations of the provisions of this Act or the Rules as have materially affected the results of the polls at one or more polling station or in the whole constituency including implementation of an agreement restraining women from casting their votes, it shall make a declaration accordingly and call upon the voters in the concerned polling station or station or in the while constituency as the case maybe, to recast their votes in the manner provided for bye-elections”.
The next paragraph explains that if the turnout of women voters is less than 10 per cent of the total votes polled in a constituency, the ECP may presume that the women were restrained through an agreement from casting their votes and may declare polling at one or more polling stations or election in the whole constituency, void.
The clause was incorporated in the election laws after media highlighted in past many elections, covert formal and informal agreements between local people that barred women from casting their votes in some areas. Local chapters of political parties were also found involved in disenfranchising women.
After the last month’s election, the ECP has so far announced re-poll only at one provincial assembly constituency in the K-P, where number of votes cast by women was less than 10 per cent of total votes.
It was PK-23 Shangla where out of 71,245 votes polled, only 3,505 (4.92 per cent) were that of women against 66,322 (93.09 percent) votes cast by men. The ECP has ordered re-poll in the constituency on September 10.
Amongst other National Assembly constituencies where women voting turn out remained very low is NA-12 Shangla where out of 93,488 votes polled, only 14,271 or 15.27 percent were cast by women.
At NA-44 Tribal Area-V, Khyber Agency only 10,849 of the total 67,607 polled votes were that of women. This is only 16.05 per cent of the total votes polled. Similarly at NA-50 Tribal Area-XI South Waziristan Agency, only 7,517 or 15.57 per cent of votes were polls by women.