Nabi Jan Orakzai

PESHAWAR: Political parties did not give much importance to women candidates in the past, but the situation has changed during recent times.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has now made it mandatory for all political parties to award 5 percent tickets to women candidates. The ECP has also declared at least 10 percent turnout by women mandatory in every constituency and barring women from voting is a crime. These steps by the Election Commission bore positive results in the last elections and many women came to polling stations to cast their votes.

The ECP spokesman in KP Sohail Ahmed said in an interview with TNN that the Election Commission has taken many steps for ensuring women’s participation in elections.

“In latest development, the ECP has asked district election commissioners to arrange meetings with election candidates, tribal elders and press club members in all tribal districts and brief them about the importance of women’s participation in election process,” he said.

Sohail Ahmed said the Election Commission is empowered to nullify results of a polling station or the whole constituency if ratio of women voters is less than 10 percent.

“I appeal to tribal people, election candidates, tribal elders and media persons to cooperate with the Election Commission to ensure maximum turnout of women voters,” he said.

Currently, he said, there are two women candidates in the field — one from Kurram and other from Khyber district who are contesting direct elections in merged districts. “Contesting elections by women on general seats is a huge development,” he said.

The ECP official said every election candidate can obtain voter list by submitting application and fee to the district election commissioner or returning officer. He said there are over 2.8 million registered voters in tribal districts including one million women voters. He said female polling staff has been appointed for women voters, while men will perform duties at male polling stations.

“In case of unavailability of women staff for some female polling stations, the ECP will appoint senior-most polling staff members there,” he said..

Sohail Ahmed said training of polling staff for elections has already been initiated. “The ECP has established nearly 2,000 polling stations in tribal districts including 376 for women, 482 for men and over a thousand mixed polling stations,” he said.