Pakistan

HRCP says turnout good but obstacles for some women voters

LAHORE: Although serious violence was not reported in the second phase of local government elections in Sindh and Punjab on Thursday, amid good voter turnout, women faced difficulties in a number of places in asserting their right to franchise, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said.

HRCP—which observed the local bodies elections in selected districts in both provinces—said in a statement released to the media: “Women and non-Muslim voters generally turned up in large numbers to cast their votes in 14 districts of Sindh and 12 of Punjab where polls were held on Thursday.”

In one union council in Sargodha district and one in Toba Tek Singh districts, women voters were barred from voting, apparently following agreements among the candidates. Despite a jirga decision in Mianwali, women there were able to exercise their right to franchise, though in small numbers, after civil society activists drew attention of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) towards this bid to keep women from voting.

Physically challenged and transgender citizens also exercised their right to vote, although in this phase also proper arrangements to facilitate the former were conspicuous by their absence.

Administrative arrangements, particularly for maintaining law and order, seemed to have improved somewhat compared to the first phase of elections in Sindh and Punjab, held on October 31.

Polling was generally peaceful and no fatality was reported in poll-related violence until the voting time ended. However, several clashes between supporters of rival candidates and political parties, use of firearms and some instances of violence against policemen by candidates’ supporters were reported.

Theft of unused ballot papers and misprinting of election symbols on ballot papers in a few constituencies in Sindh led to postponement of polling there.

HRCP will issue its full election monitoring report after the completion of all three phases of local government polls in Sindh and Punjab, the commission concluded.

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