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Tribal people in Fata are ready to give women a chance in politics

By Ashrafuddin Pirzada

Contrary to traditions, contesting candidates in Fata are encouraging women voters to cast vote in May 11 elections.

This has happened after painstaking deliberations among various stakeholders — government departments and civil society in Fata. They have held a series of meetings with political parties’ leaders and independent candidates to ensure women participation in the upcoming elections.

An official from the Election Commission of Pakistan in Khyber Agency tells TNS that the ECP has issued its directives to the candidates and election commission employees to encourage women voters to participate in the elections 2013.

The ECP official says the number of female voters registered for the forthcoming elections has doubled as of 2008 elections’ electoral lists. This year a total of 211,479 voters have been registered in Khyber Agency in which 125,284 are female voters.

According to the official, who requested not to be named, increase in the number of registered female voters was possible due to registration of females in various government financial support programmes. “Since the data was already available in the NADRA database, all registered females were automatically included in the electoral lists,” ECP official adds.

According to the ECP official, 73 female, 105 male and 39 combined polling stations would be established in NA-45 and NA-46 constituencies. The question is where polling stations would be set up in Fata? It is a big challenge not just for ECP and the caretaker government but also for the contesting candidates. In remote areas government installation are either completely destroyed or partially damaged in the decade-long militancy.

Contesting candidates in Fata are pressurising the ECP and the government to provide foolproof security to women voters to ensure maximum turnout in the elections.

Despite the uncertain situation in Fata, political parties and independent election candidates are conducting public gatherings, corner meetings and door-to-door campaigning to get the voters’ sympathies.

Idrees Kamal, a prominent social and human rights activist, is running an organisation Aman Tehrik (peace movement), says with coordination and cooperation of Tribal NGOs consortium they have conducted several awareness sessions and held walks for tribal voters.

Idrees is quite optimistic and believes efforts for peace and development would result in traditional tribal women getting elected in the coming elections.

Zarnoor Afridi, Jamat-e-Islami candidate from NA-45 constituency, says that with their efforts at least four thousand women voters were registered in Khyber Agency. He says separate polling stations should be established for women. “Women teams are motivating housewives to cast their vote for their respective parties in Fata. JI is the leading religious party that started women teams,” Zarnoor says.

Aysha Gulalai Wazir is a journalist-turned politician from Waziristan Agency representing Pakistan Tehrik-e- Insaf. She says she has organised several seminars, debates and consultation programmes to motivate tribal women for the forthcoming elections.

Aysha hopes tribal women are going to make history both as political parties’ supporters and as contesting candidates in the general elections on May 11. She says Badaam Zari is her favourite who filed her nomination papers as an independent candidate from Bajaur Agency.

Shahji Gul Afridi, an independent candidate from NA-45, says he has requested the Election Commission to establish separate women polling stations in NA-45. From NA-45 constituency, 24 candidates, including the candidates of Jamat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F), Pakistan Muslim League, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and Pakistan People’s party are expecting a tough contest.

Amina Bibi, 22, Huma Shinwari, 18, Nida Afridi, 25, and Gul Bibi, 36 reject the propaganda that tribal people do not allow women to take part in politics. They say their male family members have supported them to register as voters in NA-45. Amina says she will accompany her husband on May 11 day and will cast her vote. She says she is educated and has the right to use her constitutional right.

Huma Shinwari is a fan of PTI leader Imran Khan and urges the youth to vote for those they think can bring a positive change in Fata.

Nida Afridi, working with an NGO, Khwendo Kor (Sisters’ Home) as a psychologist, is optimistic. She tells TNS that she would cast her vote in Jamrud, Khyber Agency, to encourage other tribal women. She believes if a maximum number of tribal women get elected that would empower women in Fata.

Source: The News

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