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Sunday May 26, 2024

Votes for women

By Editorial Board
April 01, 2018

After over four years of being deprived of their right to vote, women in Upper Dir were able to cast their ballots in local government by-elections held in the district on Thursday. LG polls held previously in December last year had been declared null and void by the Election Commission of Pakistan in Upper Dir and several other districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because, as a result of local agreements, women had not been permitted to vote. The last time women voted in Upper Dir was in 1977. Thursday then was a historical day for the large numbers who turned out to cast their ballots at the polling stations established for them. The example set by the ECP will, we hope, help put an end to traditions under which women are barred from voting with all political parties and other influential elements deciding to keep them away from polling booths and from exercising their basic right to franchise. In the Upper Dir poll, the PPP clinched all the four seats, defeating the Jamaat-e-Islami by reasonable margins. For the most part, the PPP appeared to have increased its ratio of votes compared to December. Further analysis is required to determine if the votes cast by women had any impact on this outcome.

The most important aspect though is the involvement of women in the political process in the district after a break of over 40 years. The presence of a large number of ECP officials encouraged the women to vote, though some problems were reported from areas where separate polling stations had not been established for them. Dir is one of the most conservative regions in the country, and women there have repeatedly been denied any role in the public sphere. This election has changed that pattern. We hope the pattern now set in place will continue into the coming general election and there will be recognition of the fact that women, as equal citizens of the city, must be permitted to vote. All our mainstream political parties need to take the lead in setting an example in this. In the past, they have failed women – as they did in Upper Dir last year by joining in with the informal agreements that bar them from voting.