By: Seema Gul
For Farhat Bibi of Upper District Dir, it was the first instant to cast vote for the provincial Assembly constituency 93, Upper Dir, Pakistan .There was no bound to Farhat’s happiness as it enabled her to fulfill her national responsibility and that at last women were empowered to use their national right of using ballot for electing representatives of their choice. According to Farhat her motive for casting vote was to strengthen democracy in Pakistan.
Lady Hamida Shahid, Regional Coordinator PTI Upper Dir welcomed this great change and women empowerment and, according to her it heralded an era of enlightenment and gender equality .According to her the right vote and choice was a positive indicator of development as women was an integral part of civil society .This participation has unfolded the glaring fact that an era of awareness for women’s rights has ushered in. And this recent election for Provincial Assembly is a proof of this trend. This election will pave way for the participation of women in the General Election of 2018.According to Lady Hamid Shahid, through active participation of women in election campaign; most of their problems shall be streamlined for solution in the near future.
The interest of the women can be gauged from the fact for this provisional constituency 93, 3860 women cast vote and 14 polling stations had been established for this purpose. Although the number of totally registered women voters 57000, is not much impressive, but still it is a well-omened fact. Sahibzada Sanullah of PPP had won election from this very constituency .Candidate of Jamaati Islami, Mr. Bahram Khan had been declared unqualified due to false degree and the election was contested anew. The main reason for the zeal of voters in this constituency is that women had not contested vote s in the constituency PK95.The total number of registered voters for women in PK9 is 53000 but they had not been allowed to contest vote. Due to this some sensitive persons entered a case in the Court of Election tribunal and thus the election results were nullified and an order for a fresh election was scheduled. Headed by the Election Commissioner Sardar Raza, the four members’ strong bench made a hearing of the case and Civil Society and Jamaati Islami members put their arguments. Statements by the members of NGOs were also recorded .During hearing, it came to lime light that that women had not been allowed to cast votes, and in the wake of this fact the verdict was passed by the Election Commission to nullify the Supplementary election and that new election were to be contested .Jamati Islami then challenged the case to High Court .This time the High Court Passed the verdict in favor of Jamaati Islami and Izazul Mulk Afkari was declared as successful but till yet certificate of success has not been issued in a formal manner .As 53000 women had been debarred from contesting election for the constituency 93, so a way was paved for mass participation of women in the election 95 constituency. Izazul mulk maintain that the judgment of the Election Tribunal is contrary to justice and law and that the tribunal has been only playing in the hands of the NGOs and the electoral mandate has been totally usurped.
Jamat Islami Lower Dir Chapter has threatened that in case the Election Commission don’t declare the results on 1st October, then the people of this constituency will come out in mass agitation as a protest .Likewise the Deputy General Secretary, Shafiullah Khan and Information Secretary Malik Sher Bahadar Khan expressed great grief and hatred that if this declaration is pending till 1st October then a mass agitation by the constituency shall be observed.
Bushra Gauhar of Awami National Party has greatly lauded the women participation as a great step in the emancipation of women and a jump in the gender balance .She maintained that in future women had been stampede away from polling stations and debarred from casting votes but now the scenario was changed and a wave of women awareness is on the rise.
In the recent Local Bodies Elections in the Province, women cast their votes with great passion and interest and as a result due share has been given women in the distribution of seats. To cast vote was a forbidden social activity for women in most parts of KPK and all over FATA but now the scenario has totally changed and women had participated in the election campaign of 2013 with full flare and furry .Although the turnout for women vote caster was low but any how a tradition was established and women were emboldened. In the history of FATA Badam Zari from Bajaur tribal region was the first woman to contest general Election 2013. Although her mandate was low but she ushered in a golden tradition of full participation for women and women empowerment.
Prominent Human rights activist and chair person of National Society for the protection of Human Rights (NSPHR) commented on this emerging scenario and mentioned that law of the land provided full protection to the right of vote to men and women as the constitution of the country clearly described that all the citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law. Similarly, the fundamental rights described in the constitution also lists several principles of policies accordingly , which the government ,all public institution and all government servants are expected to uphold. A number of the policies specifically related to women. Article 38 (a) of the constitution illustrate that steps should be taken to ensure full participation of women in all spheres of national life.
Mr. Habib ul Hassan mentioned that the political leadership of the country is an orthodox minded and most of the politicians are feudal lords, the so called holy warriors and criminals. So they are not interested in the development of society but constantly working against the principles of the promotion of rule of law in the country. He mentioned that the struggle of civil society is valuable for raising awareness and pr of promotion of basic rights. In the recent election for national and provincial legislative assemblies it was the long struggle of the society that women were allowed to poll their vote. Although an exhausted journey is ahead but now at least a good number of people understand the real faces of the corrupt politicians and they are also against the inhuman and out dated tribal customs and traditions that were forcibly imposed by the hypocrite and corrupt politician and orthodox religious leaders.