GHALANAI, Feb 10: The residents of Mohmand tribal region have said that they will allow female members of their families to cast votes in the upcoming general elections if separate polling stations are set up for them.
The tribesmen would allow their women to cast votes if government ensured their security and established separate polling stations for them, Said Rehman, a resident of the region, told Dawn.
However, in the prevailing situation it was not safe for the women to visit polling stations, he added.
There are 555,000 registered women voters and 555,000 men voters in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). However, tribal women face many difficulties in casting their votes and taking part in political activities. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has directed all political parties to ensure participation of women in the election process.
A tribal woman in Haleemzai tehsil said that she would like to cast her vote if separate polling stations were set up for women at local level. “There is no restriction on women in our society but no woman voted in the last general elections of 2008,” she said.
Abdul Ahad Haleemzai, a tribal elder, said that women shouldn’t be stopped from polling their votes if men were allowed to cast their votes. “The women in Haleemzai, Ekkaghund and Prang Ghar tehsils in Mohmand Agency will vote in the upcoming general elections as people of these areas are educated and know the importance of vote,” he added.
Another tribal woman said that she didn’t know about the importance of vote, however, women would be able to cast their votes if government provided a peaceful environment to them.
She said that tribal customs didn’t allow women to cast their votes. “But if tribal elders and local political leaders agree, then permitting women to cast their votes will be good for the tribal areas,” she added. Malik Daud Khan, a local leader of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf, said that casting vote was a genuine right of women because they formed a large part of population. He said that PTI was educating tribal women in each village about casting their votes.
“Our religion gives a high status to women but our society ignores their basic rights,” said Iqbal Afridi, a PTI leader in Khyber Agency. He said that ECP should train tribal women about the voting process.
PTI women wing leader in Fata Ayesha Gulalai said that her party was encouraging women across the tribal areas to take part in the election process. “Women can’t get their basic rights without casting their votes. We want to bring the tribal women into the mainstream. Change will come only through elections,” she added.
About the restrictions on women in Fata, Ms Gulalai said that it was a mindset that imposed ban on women voters. “If a group or party prevents women from voting, the ECP should take action against it,” she added.
Ms Gulalai said that ECP should make arrangements for the displaced people of South Waziristan and Khyber agencies so that they could take part in the election process.