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Steps urged to reassure women voters

Jamal Shahid

ISLAMABAD: Although the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) appreciated measures taken to ensure participation of women in the upcoming elections, the statutory body believes there remains a lot more to do.

At a press conference held on Tuesday, the NCSW urged the Election Commission of Pakistan to increase representation of women in the ECP staff so that maximum participation in the electoral process could be ensured.

It also suggested setting up complaint desks in sensitive constituencies to address any violation of women’s right to vote.

Chairperson of NCSW, Khawar Mumtaz, said the ECP should provide security to women so that they could vote without fear and no one else dictated who their vote was entitled to.

The chairperson acknowledged that the country was on the verge of making history as the elections marked the first democratic transition in Pakistan.

Therefore, insecurity in some areas such as the 42 ‘No-Go’ areas in Karachi and the prohibition on voting by panchayts and clerics were tantamount to denial of democratic and constitutional rights of women.

The Commission also raised concern over the large number of women in remote rural areas and urban slums who had not been issued computerised national identity cards (CNICs), and thus could not vote despite a strong desire to do so.

Disappointment was also expressed at the failure of political parties to agree on minimum female participation (10pc) in any constituency for validating the polls, and on the low number of tickets awarded to women on general seats.

“The experiences of the past five years has demonstrated the high caliber of female parliamentarians in moving human rights legislation in the National Assembly,” said Khawar Mumtaz, adding that it would be an opportunity lost if women legislators were not included in the political mainstream.

The chairperson appreciated the women coming forward in areas like Bajaur, Dir and Thar, saying that “these women symbolise their capacity to face challenges.”

The commission resolved to setup an Election Complaint Cell to receive complaints from women in the pre-election and post-election process, and announced that its members would monitor selected areas.

A delegation would also meet the ECP to seek solution of its concerns.

Source: Dawn

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