PESHAWAR: An attempt to bar women from voting in Suliman Khel village was thwarted when representatives of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) staunchly opposed it, allowing women to vote for the first time ever.
A meeting of elders belonging to various political parties was held in Suliman Khel on Thursday night during which it was decided it is against local tradition for women to vote and thus they should be barred from doing so, said locals.
However, PML-N representatives strongly opposed the decision announcing they would encourage women from the area to come to polling stations, forcing other parties to abandon the decision too.
An elder requesting anonymity told The Express Tribune women from their village had not taken part in elections since the creation of the country and prior to any election elders bar them from voting. However, the changing trend is evidence of a different situation this time around, he added.
“There are a lot of candidates in the running and they cannot ignore female voters,” said the elder, adding the turnout, however, would be low because of the deteriorating law and order.
Another village elder said some non-political elders were also against allowing women to vote, but in the end the decision was approved and women were ‘allowed’ to vote for the candidate of their choice.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) activist Muhammad Fida, who was present at the meeting, said: “Almost all parties were in favour of letting women vote, only Gul Rehman, the representative of Awami National Party (ANP) was against it, citing security concerns.”
Fida added all representatives refused to prohibit it and thus the historic decision was taken. Similarly, elders in other villages including Teleband, Mariamzai, Shera Kera, Charpareza and Gul Bela have also refrained from placing any such restrictions, making these elections the first in which women from these areas will vote alongside men.
Suliman Khel lies within the PK-11 and NA-4 constituencies and is considered one of the worst militancy-hit villages in the region. It is also one of the first villages where girls schools were blown up by militants.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2013.