Tribesmen queue up to vote, allow women to participate -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Tribesmen queue up to vote, allow women to participate

KHYBER AGENGY: Heavily armed with weapons like assault rifles and rocket launchers, tribesmen were seen standing in long queues while wearing traditional turbans to cast votes in Khyber Agency.

Contrary to the past practice of banning women from exercising their right of franchise, this time tribal elders allowed women in some parts to take part in the electoral process in the agency. “We have decided to allow women to take part in voting,” said Ibrahim Malik, a candidate for NA 45 (Khyber Agency) while talking to reporters at the Hashim Abad School polling station in Jamrud.

Cordoned by dozens of armed security guards, Malik Ibrahim said women had been stopped from casting their votes in the morning, but added that they were allowed after around 11 am in the constituency.

Dissatisfied: He expressed dissatisfaction over the arrangements made by the Election Commission (EC), adding that the polling process had been very slow due to a lack of staff. He said tribesmen were democratic people and held great interest in elections, but due to the shortage of staff, the voting process had been slow.

However, when asked about the reasons behind the slow pace of polling, Presiding Officer Mir Aslam Khan said voters were mostly illiterate and took a lot of time in stamping a ballot paper. He urged candidates to educate people so that illiterate people could also cast votes with out any confusions.

Numerous tribesmen could be seen in and outside different polling stations in Khyber Agency consisting of two constituencies including NA-45 and NA-46. “We have voted with a hope that better and honest people will come in power and take reign of the government,” said 70-year-old Syed Muhammad.

“This enthusiasm of elderly tribesmen reflects their love for democracy and it is hoped that the turnout in the Tribal Areas will be very high,” said Abdur Rahim Khan, president of the Awami National Party (ANP) Khyber Agency. He said the polling had been conducted in a peaceful manner, adding that although tribesmen carried weapons for security reasons, they were in fact peaceful citizens.

Ban media personnel: Meanwhile, the Khasadar force and local people did not allow media personnel to visit women’s polling stations and take pictures of women. They said it was against tribal traditions and culture. “We are moderate people, but not to the extent to allow others to take pictures of our women,” said a tribesmen standing outside a women’s polling station.

The situation in Khyber Agency was quite sensitive due to the display of heavy arms by supporters of different candidates. The candidates were seen moving in big motorcades from one place to another with heavily armed people sitting in the vehicles. However, some people were also seen exhorting people via microphones to avoid displaying arms and not make the elections a matter of ego.
Source: The News
Date:2/19/2008