The Peshawar High Court extended its suspension of an Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) order which called for fresh voting and declared by-polls in PK-95 (Lower Dir) as null and void. The Aurat Foundation and other social activists also filed an application to become parties in the instant case.
The decision to extend the suspension on the order was taken by Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel and Justice Irshad Qaiser during the hearing of a petition filed by Jamaat-e-Islami’s winning candidate Aizazul Mulk.
Aurat Foundation and National Commission on Status of Women also gave different applications to become parties in the case.
Looking for affirmation
Ghulam Mohiuddin Malik informed the court his client Mulk won the election on May 7. Later, ECP took notice of reports that women were barred from exercising their democratic right to vote. The election authority declared the results as void and order re-polling for the seat which was left vacant after JI Chief Sirajul Haq became a senator.
“ECP has not provided any documentary proof of women being barred from voting on Election Day,” Malik said. “The high court suspended the order but till now [my client’s] victory has not been notified.”
Human rights issue
Aurat Foundation’s counsel Qazi Jawad Ihsanullah told the court the organisation also wanted to become a party in the case. He pointed out women not voting was a human rights issue.
The division directed him and the NCSW counsel to assist the court on the issue. The court also issued a notice to the ECP and the winning candidate before fixing the next date of hearing for July 28.
On June 11, the same bench suspended the order of the ECP which ordered re-polling in PK-95 Lower Dir II on July 12. The decision was made after the body took note of the fact that women were reportedly barred from voting in the by-election held on May 7.
No charges filed
“No one contacted the ECP regarding the barring of women from votes on the election. The ECP also does not have the authority to take notice by itself and act as an election tribunal” Malik asserted at the last hearing.
It was further stated women had not voted and did not participate in the process whenever there was election in the said constituency. The counsel said past records show the same. Malik added those women who recorded their statements before the ECP did not belong to Dir, but to NGOs in Islamabad.
The ECP took a suo motu notice of media reports and complaints of the general public that not a single woman out of the estimated 53,000 voted on May 7. The ECP, after hearing various witness accounts, ordered re-polling in PK-95 and announced it would be scheduled for July 12.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2015.