When the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) proposed cancelling results from polling stations with less than a 10% women turnout, mainstream political parties disagreed. They hinged their opposition on the argument that ‘women voter turnout tends to be low in rural areas’.
Women in Pakistan face an unusual conundrum with respect to elections. They can become the premier or a minister but in many places are refused their right to vote.
In the 2008 polls in Suleman Khel, elders and candidates from NA-4 Peshawar-IV collectively decided women would not vote. They signed a stamp-paper declaration to this effect, making it binding on everyone to obey the decision.
In the previous election, political parties in Charsadda and Swat also did not allow women to vote. Even though it was in Charsadda that Begum Naseem Wali Khan, wife of the late Wali Khan, contested elections in 1977 and became the first woman in Pakistan to do so.
NA-7 Charsadda-I is dominated by the Awami National Party (ANP), the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl and the Qaumi Watan Party.
The tentative swing votes
The 2013 polls are paving the way to an election of firsts. Candidates were disqualified because they did not know a Quranic verse; three major parties are under relentless terrorist attacks; the ECP has played an unprecedented role and the judiciary is an ‘active’ observer. It would be fair to say that this time, every single vote counts.
There are 37.59 million women registered to vote in Pakistan, making up 43.6% of the total registered electorate. The question is: will women make their vote count? Several women were asked how they intend to approach May 11.
Are you going to vote?
If yes, then who will you vote for and why?
If no, then why not?
Have you ever voted before?
If yes, then who did you vote for and why?
First Time Voters
*Names have been changed to protect identity
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2013.
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