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Change linked to women’s participation in polling

By: Ashrafuddin Pirzada

LANDIKOTAL: Leaders of various political parties in the tribal areas on Wednesday said they were optimistic that women’s participation in the upcoming elections would bring about a positive change in the political atmosphere.

Gulalai Wazir of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf said her party would encourage women and help them go to the polling stations in the general elections. Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Fata deputy head Zarnoor Afridi also said women’s participation in the elections could bring about a positive change in the life of tribal people.

They said their parties had chalked out special campaigns to encourage more women to take part in the upcoming general elections. Gulalai Wazir said her party had started holding corner meetings and jirgas with local women and with prominent elders for their support regarding women’s participation in the election.

To encourage more women, Gulalai said, her party’s leaders have advised her to launch a full-fledged election awareness campaign in all tribal constituencies. “I will convene a grand jirga of tribal elders to convince them to encourage their women to take part in the election process,” she said.

She added it was the government’s responsibility to maintain peace and security during the elections, and urged the government to deploy security forces in Waziristan region to ensure free and fair elections.

Zarnoor Afridi said the women’s right to vote was not un-Islamic. “The JI believes that no change will come about without women’s participation in the election process,” he said. “On behalf of the JI, I request the Election Commission of Pakistan to set up separate polling stations for women in Fata to encourage them to poll their votes. This may double the turnout compared to the 2008 elections,” he added.

Concerning women’s awareness of elections, Zarnoor Afridi said his party was conducting training, meetings and wall chalking to educate women and motivate them to vote in the elections. He said it is the prime obligation of political parties to encourage more Fata women and to promote wider democracy. Shagufta Afridi, a female activist of PTI from Khyber Agency, is enthusiastic about women’s participation in the upcoming elections.

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