PESHAWAR: As polling for local body elections in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa continues smoothly for men, women in the province face many hurdles.
Women in very few numbers turned up to cast their votes at some polling stations while at others there were no women in sight. Though some were puzzled as to why women did not turn up, there were reports from some polling stations of women being barred from voting and from others of ‘secret agreements’.
In Nara Amazai union council, Haripur, not a single woman turned up to exercise her right to select a leader of her choice.
“In all seven polling stations of Nara Amazai union council not a single woman could use her voting right,” a candidate for the district council requesting anonymity told The Express Tribune.
Reportedly the women were barred from voting under a secret agreement between the candidates who did not want to allow their women to use their right to franchise.
“Although there is no written agreement, some elders have decided to follow the previous practice of not allowing women voters,” he added.
Further, he said although candidates called their relatives from distant areas as far as Karachi whose permanent are registered in K-P, yet women voters who number in more than 3,000 have not yet been allowed to visit polling stations.
With five hours left for polling, the candidate said, “The chances of allowing women to vote before polling closes are bleak.”
“Not a single woman has turned up to vote,” a police source seconding the candidate’s claim said.
However, returning officer Humayun Khan said that it was not in his knowledge and he would share the exact position later.
Nara Amazai with a predominant Pushto speaking majority and tribal culture, is one of the remote union councils of Haripur district.
However, Nara Amazai was not the only union council where not a single woman cast a vote, as the five polling stations of Union Council Sarangzona of Tank saw no women voters either.
“It is not because of jirga or religious clerics ban but usually here the women are not coming to vote, a local elder, Zoman Mehsud,” told The Express Tribune.
Further in another council of Tank, Kari Umar Khan, a scuffle broke out between voters and police resulting in a female polling station (Tata women polling station) shutting down.
Earlier during the day, the Election Commission of Pakistan took notice of women being barred from voting at different polling stations.
In several areas of the province particularly from districts of Lower Dir, Swat and southern parts of the province, women were either held back by a local consensus among candidates or were not being allowed to vote.
Separately, presiding officer Nosheen Habib told The Express Tribune that locals, especially women, did not show up to vote this morning.
“No women have come to vote as yet, I don’t know why they have not come,” Habib said.
Furious at the bias, many took to social networking site Twitter to express their anger: