31st March 2022
By Arshad Mohmand
The second round of local body elections kicked off in 35 tehsils of 18 districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on March 31.
The total number of registered voters is 8 million. However, there are emerging reports that women are being barred from casting their ballots, which can be evidenced by the low female voter turnout at some polling stations. According to the Divisional Presiding Officer, there are 678 female voters registered in the Swagli area of Kabal tehsil. However, not a single vote was cast.
In the three women’s polling stations in Alpuri tehsil, Shangla district, only one vote was cast between 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM. A total of 40 to 50 votes were cast till closing.
According to another presiding officer, Shamim Akhtar, only 16 women had cast their votes in his polling station till 11:00 AM, despite the fact that the total number of female voters registered was close to a thousand.
Safia Hayat, a student from Shangla, told Voicepk that local women are less likely to vote primarily because they reside in a male dominated society. She urged for awareness amongst women regarding the importance of enfranchisement.
Because many village councils did not contest for women’s seats, women representatives have been elected unopposed in several such councils.
According to Saqibullah, a resident of Alpuri tehsil, women were rarely allowed to vote prior to 2018. In comparison, there has been some progress in their enfranchisement in 2022.
In 2018, because the number of female votes was less than 10% for Shangla, re-elections were held in the constituency per the election rules. Candidates in this round say they have managed to convince most women to vote, and expect a female voter turnout that fulfills the minimum criteria of 10%.