KARACHI: The Aurat Foundation has welcomed a Peshawar High Court (PHC) verdict ordering re-polling in several polling stations of two National Assembly constituencies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where women were barred from exercising their right of franchise under coercion through illegal decisions by jirgas and agreements reached between male candidates during the Aug 22 by-elections. In a statement, the Aurat Foundation, a non-governmental organisation working on women issues, said that the PHC judgement, announced in a suo motu case, would go a long way in protecting the women’s fundamental rights.
“This landmark decision will set a legal precedent for all government and political institutions in guiding them to preserve and uphold women’s equal status in the society in all walks of national life as enshrined in the constitution,” it said.
It said: “The violation of women’s electoral rights during elections had become a chronic disease which no one wanted to cure despite public commitments in support of women’s rights. Women have waited for such a moment for a long time and many have given their lives to achieve their rights. This is reassuring that the free judiciary had come to the rescue of women who were being denied the right to vote in the name of so-called traditions in many parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and southern districts of Punjab in consecutive elections.”
“Human rights of women cannot be sacrificed on the altar of local customs and traditions which male-dominated patriarchal society had created to maintain its control over marginalised sections of the society. The PHC decision will break new grounds to enhance women’s participation in political process and cause of national progress.”
The NGO hoped that the Election Commission of Pakistan would fulfil its constitutional duty in future to ensure that women exercised their electoral rights in an environment free of fear and interference, because it primarily was the commission’s duty. It also appealed to political parties to rise above from petty local power tussles and work in the national interest to support women’s rights.