PESHAWAR: More than 50 per cent women’s reserved seats in the province will remain vacant as conservative norms obstructed women from taking part in the by-polls.
The NWFP is generally regarded as a conservative region where religious and tribal leaders have always been averse to women participation in politics.
The schedule for filing nomination papers was March 3, 4 and 5, which was later extended to March 8. As the last date for submission of papers is already over and lists of candidate, after withdrawal of papers till Tuesday, will be finalized today (Wednesday), the Election Commission should take notice of the dismal situation in the province.
Official data shows that no nomination papers were filed on 1,096 seats out of the total 1,953 women vacant seats in the 24 districts of the NWFP. Only Tank district has the distinction where women filed nomination papers on all the 30 vacant seats.
The situation is worst in the remote Kohistan and Dir Lower districts where not a single woman submitted nomination papers. In Kohistan 228, and in Dir 196 seats reserved for women are lying vacant and will remain so.
In Dir Upper district 101 seats, Batagram 100, Mardan 77, Swabi 76, Peshawar 72, Bannu 60, Mansehra 45, Swat 19, Hangu 17, 15 each in Shangla and Haripur, D I Khan 12, Kohat 9, 8 each in Abbottabad and Malakand, Buner 7, Charsadda 6, Nowshera 5, Chitral 4, and one seat Karak went uncontested.
Aurat Foundation, an NGO working for women rights, has cited verbal understanding of political leaders in parts of the province to bar women from contesting polls and non-cooperation of returning officers who not keeping in mind local traditions asked women candidates to appear in person during scrutiny of their papers.
In Dir lower district, local leaders of Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians, Pakistan People’s Party (Sherpao), Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Awami National Party, and Jamaat-e-Islami reached a verbal understanding for not allowing women to contest the local bodies by-polls.
In Chinglay Union Council of Buner district, union council nazim and other male members of the UC did not allow women to contest the by-polls. In Mardan and Batagram, the staff of returning officers demanded fard (land-owning documents) from those women who wanted to file papers against the vacant seats for peasants/workers.
In some places, the returning officers did not accept the electoral rolls 2002 and demanded from the candidates to submit the voters’ registration number prepared under the 2001 rolls. For example, in Mardan, the nomination papers of Ms Khalida Iqbal, wife of Shafiqur Rehman, serial no 426, household no 2002-23830, Ms Shoauhri Begum, wife of Mohammad Touraez Khan, serial number 283, household no 2002, and Ms Mun Bati wife of Musafir Khan, a resident of Samarkand Village, household no 723, were not accepted on the same grounds.
In certain areas, particularly Upper Dir, Batgram and Hangu, women candidates were asked to appear in person during scrutiny of their nomination papers. Keeping in view the socio-cultural constrains and the resistance from the conservative elements, it is not possible for women candidates to meet this condition.
It merits a mention here that two years back leaders of some political parties in Mardan and Swabi districts signed an agreement to keep women out of local government elections. Later, some women seeking remedy from the tribal and conservative religious mindset filed a writ petition in the Peshawar High Court. The petition is still pending before the high court.
Source: The News