=> TIMERGARA, Jan 6: A women's rights activist and th -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

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=> TIMERGARA, Jan 6: A women’s rights activist and th

TIMERGARA, Jan 6: A women’s rights activist and the member of Lower Dir District Council, Shad Begum, has said that neither the political parties nor the Election Commission is making efforts to ensure women’s participation in the upcoming elections, to be held on February 18.

Talking to Dawn here on Sunday, Ms Begum said that the Election Commission had set up only five polling stations for women out of a total of 259 in the Lower Dir district.

She said that 249 polling stations were combined where male and female voters would have to cast their votes which was impossible in an area like Dir.

She said: “Being a rights activist and district councillor, I will also not like to go to a male polling station and cast my vote.”

She said that the government and the Election Commission should set up separate polling stations in all big villages of the district if they were interested to ensure women’s participation in the election process.

She suggested that mobile polling stations be set up in the remote areas of Lower Dir to facilitate voting bt women.

She said that so far no political party in the area had spoken about women rights in their slogans which showed discrimination towards women.

The PPP candidate for NA 34, Malik Azmat Khan, when contacted told Dawn that they were not opposing women to vote; however, the situation was not favourable for them to vote in Dir. He said that due to the uncertain law and order situation they could not ask women to vote.

The ANP candidate for NA 34, Ayub Khan, said that though his party was in favour of women’s voting but women did not like to come out of their homes to vote.

He said: “If women want to vote, our party will welcome them, but I don’t think they will come.”

Qazi Fazalullah of the JUI (F), a candidate for NA 34 and PF 94, told Dawn on being contacted that due to local norms and traditions it was impossible for women to vote.

He said due to strict ‘pardah’ they would not like to go to polling stations and cast their votes.

He said: “It will take time and this time we are not in favour of them.”

A PML(Q) candidate, Javed Akhtar advocate, was the only one who supported women to vote but when asked about what he had done regarding it his answer was unsatisfactory.

During the local government polls in 2001 and 2005 and parliamentary elections in 2002, all political parties had signed an agreement barring women of the district from voting.
Source: Dawn
Date:1/7/2008