Pakistan panel annuls by-poll for absence of women voters

Islamabad, June 2 (IANS) The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday annulled the by-election held last month in the PK-95 constituency of Lower Dir in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province due to absence of women voters, and announced fresh polling in the area.

This is the first case in which the Election Commission has dismissed poll results and ordered re-voting due to the absence of women voters, Dawn online reported.

There were 127,096 registered voters in the PK-95 constituency of Lower Dir, of which 53,000 are women.

Earlier, petitioners in the Peshawar High Court alleged that PK-95 candidates and elders made a verbal agreement to stop women from casting votes in the by-election.

Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) Izazul Mulk, who was also backed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), won the PK-95 by-election after JI chief Sirajul Haq upon being elected Senator, resigned from the seat.

The ECP took notice of earlier reports about a plan to bar women from voting in the provincial by-elections, and warned against any such attempts.

In a statement, the commission said this would be against the spirit of Islam and the constitution of Pakistan, accroding to which every woman has fundamental privileges, like men, to offer her opinion.

Taking serious notice of the development, the ECP emphasised that imposing a ban on women’s right to vote was unconstitutional and would be deemed an offence.

In 2013, documents signed by members of PTI, Pakistan Peoples Party, Awami National Party, Jamaati Ulemai Islam-Fazal, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and JI showed the parties were in tacit approval that women were not to vote in the general elections in certain parts of the Khyber-Pakhtnkhwa province.

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