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Pakistan court cancels election after women votes banned

Illegal verdict of jirga banned women from casting their votes

Image Credit: AFP
A Pakistani woman casts her vote during the country's by-election in several constituencies, in Islamabad on August 22, 2013. Voting for 41 constituencies of national and provincial assemblies began on August 22, for which more than 500 candidates are contesting for 15 National Assembly and 26 provincial assembly seats.
Gulf News

Karachi: A high court Thursday stopped the results of by-election at the two national assembly seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhaw (KP) province after it noticed an illegal verdict of traditional jirga or local council that banned women from casting their votes.

Peshawar High Court (PHC) ban came after the polling was over in the two constituencies and results were scheduled to be announced.

Pakistan on Thursday was holding by-elections in 42 provincial and federal constituencies on which the elections could not be held on May 11, the general election day, for the one reason or the other.

The by-elections were extensively being covered by the electronic media that set up a special transmission for the coverage of the event.

People were taken aback when a news from KP province was broadcast about the jirga decision barring women to cast their votes in the Lucky Marwat and Nowshera districts.

The jirga ruling evoked much criticism in the media as besides the conservative religious parties some secular and liberal parties also backed the jirga decision.

Later in the day, however, chief justice of PHC Dost Mohammad Khan took suo moto notice of the jirga ban that deprived the women of the two districts and constituencies of their basic right to vote. Justice Khan ordered the staff of the election commission to ensure that all the willing women could cast their votes.

However, realizing that it was too late and the women might not be able to cast their votes, Justice Khan ordered withholding the elections at the two constituencies—NA 5 and NA 27 in the two districts.

He also ordered extension of polling time for another one and half hour whereas the Election Commission of Pakistan chose to not give time extension in the other polling stations.

KP is the northern province of Pakistan and a significant part of it has been a stronghold of Taliban and other Islamists, who want women to stay at homes and oppose their getting education and going for shopping without any male member of the family.