Parties strike deals before district council elections in Khyber Pakhtunkh province, and court rejects complaint over byelection
In some of the most socially conservative regions of Pakistan this weekend’s local government elections will be men-only affairs.
Local politicians and elders say parties contesting elections for district and village council seats in Hangu and parts of Malakand, districts of the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), have struck deals barring women from voting.
In a parliamentary byelection in Lower Dir this month, none of the eligible 50,000 women in the constituency turned out to vote. One report said mosques broadcast warnings to women, and polling stations were guarded by “baton-wielding men” who blocked the few women who did try to vote.
One of the PTI’s elected provincial representatives told the Guardian that the party had been complicit in keeping women away from the ballot box in KP, including in this weekend’s poll in Hangu.
In the runup to the 2013 general election the PTI in Upper Dir signed a written agreement with other parties barring women from voting and stipulating large fines for anyone breaking the agreement. In the end just one woman’s vote was recorded.
Ijaz Khan, a professor at Peshawar University, said political parties were to blame for not challenging social pressures in the most “backward” areas of the province. “In order to win the seat they refuse to take a strong stance with their local chapter,” he said. “The PTI may have women who go to their meetings in Islamabad or Lahore, but in the more traditional areas the party compromises on women’s rights.”