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Mohmand residents demand women-only polling stations for facilitating female voters

GHALANAI: Residents of Mohmand tribal district say they will allow their female family members to vote in the general elections scheduled to be held on July 25 if women-only polling stations are established.

A resident of Atto Khel area of Haleemzai tehsil, Hairan Momand said that women had the right to vote, but their casting vote would depend on the security situation of the area. “If it (law and order situation) would be normal the turnout of women voters would be higher.”

He said in general elections 2013 all women from his family casted their votes and they would cast vote in the upcoming elections as well.

Hairan Momand hoped that most of the women would vote for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidate because of the PPP government’s Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), under which all the women registered with their computerized identity cards were paid Rs1500 a month.

The Tribal District Mohmand (TDM) has 96,679 registered female voters, compared with 158,873 male voters. Women voters face many obstacles in casting their votes and getting involved in political activities in the region.

Read More: Electioneering campaign gains momentum in Mohmand Agency

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has asked all political parties to ensure 100 percent women vote by allowing them to go for vote.

The Constitution of Pakistan guarantees the right to vote to all the citizens aged 18 and above, whether male or female.

One female resident of Haleemzai tehsil, Gulono, 55-years-old, said she would like to vote if here separate women’s polling stations were arranged locally and which were accessible to villager women.

“There is no restriction on women in our society,” she said, “many women voted in the last election also.”

A tribal elder, Malik Saif Ullah said, “If a man can cast his vote, then why should we prevent our women from casting their votes?” In the coming election, he said, women will vote in Haleemzai, Ekkaghund, Pandiali and Prang Ghar tehsils in the tribal district Mohmand, because local people were well-educated and knew the importance of balloting.

Another woman, Rozeena Bibi, said that she knew the importance of the elections and casting votes, but if the government provided a peaceful environment, then women will be able to vote in large number. She added that tribal customs did not allow some women to vote, but for this election local tribal and political leaders were on the same page that women should vote.

President Awami National Party and candidate for the NA-42 in Mohmand, Nisar Ahmad, said that it was the basic right of every woman because they made up a large part of the population. He said that ANP workers were going village to village educating tribal women about balloting.

Realising importance of women’s participation in elections, PTI candidate Sajid Khan said, “Our religion gives a high status to women but our society ignores their basic rights.” He said the Election Commission should teach tribal women how to vote.

He said his party was motivating women across the tribal areas. “Without casting their vote, women cannot get basic rights,” he said. “We want tribal women to join the mainstream of Pakistan, and change will come only through elections in the area,” Sajid said.

About the restrictions on women in tribal areas, the PTI leader said that the so-called ban on women voting was in the mindset of each group. If a group or party prevented women from voting, he said, the Election Commission should take action against them.

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