Aurat Publication & Information Service Foundation
Women win over denial of their right to vote after 49 years, Islamabad


Women win over denial of their right to vote after 49 years

In a historic move, taking notice of barring women to cast their vote, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) today declared the May 7, 2015, by-polls in PK-95, Lower Dir-II, as null and void and directed re-polling there.

This was a judicial and political victory for women after 49 years, when in1966 women were barred to cast their vote in Karachi and a petition was filed in Sindh High Court against this political discrimination.  Women’s right to vote has been denied of right to vote in many areas of Pakistan.

“This is a historic decision towards women’s political empowerment and would have far reaching impact on women’s struggle for political rights”, said Shabina Ayaz, the resident director of the Aurat Foundation in Peshawar.  She also  valued the  timing of  the  decision in the context of  complaints from women  against  denial from  voting  during  recent local  government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, that the  decision would encourage the  women  voters and candidates to file their complaints where  they were  denied of casting vote.  “Aurat  Foundation has been monitoring  general and local government  elections, raising women’s disfranchisement  issue and giving  recommendations continuously since 1991”,  she further  said.  A petition was also filed in Peshawar High Court in  2001 against barring women from casting  vote during local government  elections.     

The ECP took sui-motto   after various women’s rights activists sent requests demanding that the election be declared null and void in by-polls of  PK-95 where women were barred to cast their vote. The  case was heared by ECP under the Chief Election Commissioner, retired Justice Sardar Raza Khan.  Seven  women’s  rights activists appeared as petitioners, namely Ms Shabina Ayaz from Aurat Foundation,  Ms Bushra  Goher, MNA ANP, Ms Tahira  Abdullah, Ms Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson NCSW, Ms Irshad Begum, from ABKT, Ms Farbana  Bari  and  Mr Sikandar from SAP-PK.   

Lower Dir’s powerful men have a history of excluding women from the election process. In the 2013 general election they signed a deal not to allow women to vote. All political parties — religious and those that call themselves secular were part of it. The deal was signed on May 10, 2013 and bore the signatures of Dr Nazir of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Aizaz-ul-Mulk Afkari of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Haji Abdul Rahman Khan of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, Malik Rehman of Pakistan People’s Party, Abdul Wahid of Awami National Party and Dr Deedar Mohammad of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. According to the agreement, any party violating it would be fined Rs.5 million.