Concerns rise as observers claim Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa elders are preventing women from voting in local polls.
Local elections in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa may end up disenfranchising over 10,000 women after reports emerged that political parties in the region had inked a deal to prevent women from voting in the polls.
Social activists in Peshawar and Nowshera told Newsweek that local elders had told women they would not be allowed in the local elections. “Announcements to this effect were made in Haryana in Peshawar and Balu village in Nowshera,” they said, adding that in Balu, the women had been threatened with militant attacks if they visited polling stations.
Reacting to the reports, Chief Election Commissioner Justice Sardar Raza on Friday night directed the chief of Local Government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to take stern action against anyone preventing women from voting.
The United Nations Development Program also expressed concern about the reports in a statement issued on Friday. “The European Union Delegation and E.U. member states, together with the United Nations Development Program, call on the Government of Pakistan, the provincial government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the leaders of political parties to investigate these allegations and to take all steps necessary to ensure that women are allowed to participate fully in the elections,” it said, adding that as a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Islamabad was required to ensure no woman’s right to vote had been denied.
Responding to the troubling reports, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak claimed neither the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, nor the provincial government had played any role in barring women from voting. According to the senior politician, his government is only responsible for ensuring security and does not have the job of encouraging women to vote. The Election Commission of Pakistan should ask local residents to allow women to vote, he added.