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Curbs on women’s vote criticised

ISLAMABAD, Dec 31: A Senate committee has expressed concern over restrictions imposed on women’s participation in the Feb 18, 2008 elections in certain areas of the NWFP, Fata, Punjab and Sindh and criticised local leaders for having agreed to the violation of election rules and women’s rights.

The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights, which met here under Senator S.M. Zafar on Wednesday, called for empowering the Election Commission and improving its capacity to hold free and fair elections.

Discussing the European Union’s Election Observation Mission’s report on the elections, the committee criticised the political leaders of the areas for being party to undemocratic move of prohibiting women from exercising their right to vote.

Stressing the need for changing people’s mindset through education and awareness campaigns, the committee said that people needed to realise the importance of the right to vote.

The committee urged the ministry of human rights to arrange a seminar to create public awareness about the need for creating favourable conditions for universal participation in polls.

It directed the ministry of law and justice to suggest changes to encourage women participation in elections and discourage illegal practices like their ban on casting their votes.

The committee also took suo motu notice of the practice of ‘trial by fire’ in some areas of the country, forcing people suspected of certain crimes to prove their innocence by walking on fire.

The meeting was attended by Senators Mushahid Hussain, Mohammad Abbas Komaili, Dr Khalid Ranjha and Dr Mohammad Said besides the secretary of human rights division and senior officials of the ministry of law and justice and the Election Commission.
Source: Dawn