KHAAR: Candidates contesting by-election in NA-44 in the Bajaur Agency on Saturday decided to bar women from casting vote. Two independent candidates — Shahabuddin Khan and Haji Syed Badshah — backed by the Awami National Party and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, respectively, are contesting the by-election, scheduled to be held on Jan 10. The decision would deny about 55,000 eligible women voters, out of a total of 131,700 registered voters in the agency from taking part in the by-election. ANP’s general secretary in Bajaur Gul Afzal Khan, who is looking after Malik Shahabuddin’s election campaign, said that the two candidates had taken the decision because tribesmen did not allow their women to take part in the polling process.
“It is against our tribal traditions to allow women to cast votes,” Mr Khan said. However, an official of the Election Commission of Pakistan said that the commission would set up separate polling stations for women despite the tribal ban. Tribesmen had previously banned women from casting vote in the previous general elections. However, women voters had cast their vote in the agency’s Barang tehsil, bordering Afghanistan. The commission had decided that polling would be held according to 2002 voters’ lists, therefore, it was not mandatory for voters to produce their computerised national identity cards before casting their votes, said an official in Peshawar. He said that any voter possessing old identity cards would be eligible to cast a vote in the by-polls.