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Women stand in a queue before casting their votes during Pakistan's general election at a polling station in Lahore.(AFP Photo)

In a first, women cast votes in Pakistan’s conservative provinces

WT24 Desk

For the first time in Pakistan’s electoral history, women in some conservative parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces cast their votes in the general elections as candidates sought to fulfil the legal requirement of minimum 10% women’s turnout to validate their result.

In the restive Balochistan, too, women came out in large numbers to vote on Wednesday, despite terror attacks and repeated threats, the Dawn reported.

Women in tribal areas and other conservative areas had been barred from voting in the past general elections, as the practice of keeping women away from voting was a norm under verbal and written agreements between candidates and family elders in such areas.

However, for the first time, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) annulled the result of Dir Lower bypolls in 2015 after finding that none of the registered women voters had cast votes.

The Elections Act requires the ECP to declare an election null and void if women’s turnout in a constituency is less than 10% of its total polled votes.

Yesterday, candidates and local administration on ECP directives ensured at least 10% turnout of women voters in the districts notorious for barring women from voting.

The measures encouraged women voters not only in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Dir Lower but also in a village of Punjab’s Sahiwal district to visit their respective polling stations and cast their vote.

In North Waziristan, Bajaur and other far-flung parts of Mohmand tribal agency also saw a rise in female voters’ turnout despite lack of facilities and slow polling process.

Considering past voting trends in the conservative parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the ECP had issued directives to district returning officers and deputy commissioners to ensure women’s voting in six districts namely Swat, Dir Lower, Dir Upper, Shangla, Swabi and Batagram.

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