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Women challenge denial of right to vote

Women challenge denial of right to vote

PESHAWAR: Four women voters of NA-5, Nowshera I on Saturday moved the Peshawar High Court seeking re-polling in the constituency’s polling stations, where women were disenfranchised during the Aug 22 by-elections.

Neelum Khan, Khudija Bibi, Sanam Bibi and Rabia Ameer filed separate writ petitions claiming in at least 42 women polling stations, voters were stopped from casting vote.

They requested the court to stay the issuance of official notification regarding the winning of the returned candidate until the final disposal of the petitions.

The petitions filed by lawyers Syeda Saima Jafri and Akhunzada Saifur Rehman have the Election Commission of Pakistan, the Nowshera district returning officer and the returning officer as respondents.

The petitioners have also annexed a list of around 250 women voters, who also supported their contention and claimed that they were not allowed to cast votes during the by-election.

After the filing of the petitions, the controversy about the women being stopped from casting votes has taken a new turn.

Earlier, Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan had taken a suo motu notice of the issue after his personal staff officer, Sofia Waqar, submitted a report on the day of by-election, where she had mentioned media reports regarding stopping women from casting votes in NA-5 Nowshera and NA-27 Lakki Marwat constituency.

The chief justice had stayed the issuance of official notification of election results in the said two constituencies and on Aug 26 a two-member bench had directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to conduct an inquiry and conduct re-polling in the stations where there was zero percent female voting.

As the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf led in those two constituencies, one of its candidates, Dr Imran Khattak from NA-5, moved the Supreme Court with the request for setting aside the PHC orders and allowing ECP to issue notification regarding their success. The court on Sept 17 set aside the order of the high court but ordered that any party/person aggrieved from the election process in the NA-5 and NA-27 constituencies might approach the competent authority in accordance with the law for agitating the grievances.

In the petitions, women voters contended that right to vote was a fundamental right and nobody could be stopped from exercising that right. They said on the day of polling women in the said 42 polling stations had gone to cast vote but were informed that no female voting would be held there.

The petitioners alleged that the administration had also played their role in stopping women from casting votes as they had locked certain stations. They said disenfranchisement of women had become a regular phenomenon and the high court may take notice of it and allow these petitions.

Advocate Akhunzada Saifur Rehman told Dawn that the petitioners were aggrieved persons and had the right to move the high court under Article 199 of the Constitution.

He said earlier, the Supreme Court had set aside order of the high court merely on the ground that the aggrieved party had not approached the court but now the case was altogether different.

DAWN

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