Pakistan News

ECP voids Dir by-poll result over women vote bar

ECP voids Dir by-poll result over women vote bar

ISLAMABAD: Nearly a month after a men-only turnout in a by-election in PK-95 Dir sparked a nationwide controversy, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) — in a landmark verdict — on Tuesday declared the polls void because of the disenfranchisement of women.

In a unanimous decision, the commission decided not to notify the returned candidate and said a new election schedule would be announced in accordance with the law and fresh elections would be held.

Though the practice of keeping women from voting has continued unchecked for years under verbal and written agreements between candidates and political parties in several parts of the country, this is the first time in the electoral history of the country that the Election Commission of Pakistan has annulled elections on the grounds of disenfranchisement of women.




The commission had taken a suo motu notice of reports that women were being kept from exercising their right to vote in the by-election on May 7 and had sought reports from the provincial chief secretary and the returning officer concerned on the circumstances of this exclusion.

Notices had also been issued to the seven candidates, asking them to explain the circumstances. Their comments had been placed before the commission for a decision.

Of a total of nearly 5,300 women voters, not a single woman cast her vote in the May 7 by-polls.

The PK-95 seat had fallen vacant after Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Emir Sirajul Haq was elected senator.

JI Lower Dir Emir Aizazul Mulk emerged victorious after beating closest rival, ANP’s Bahadur Khan, by a margin of 2,308 votes. The JI candidate secured 18,711 votes as against the runner-up’s 16,403.

The candidate of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam–Fazl (JUI-F) Anwar Khan could manage only 91 votes. Maulana Ziaul Haq and Mirzada got 304 and 102 votes, respectively, while Obaidullah Sajid and Liaquat Ali got 24 and 17 votes.

The Women’s Parliamentary Caucus (WPC) lauded the ECP’s decision to declare the PK-95 by-elections null and void. WPC Secretary MNA Shaista Pervaiz Malik hailed the decision on behalf of the caucus, saying, “If only the decision was taken earlier, it would have saved time and hassle.” She said that such decisions must be taken prudently and timely, especially if the evidence is clear.

Barrister Afzal Hussain, an expert on electoral laws, welcomed the decision and told Dawn that under Article 218 of the Constitution it was the mandate of the ECP to conduct elections justly, fairly and transparently. An election where not even a single woman had voted could in no way be described as just and fair, he said.

“It is a landmark judgment that will set a precedent to be followed in all electoral exercises in the days to come and curb the practice of barring women from voting in future,” he remarked.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2015

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