In Pakistan’s northwest, elections are like weddings – full of fun and festivities, and women don’t have a say in important decisions about their future.

Human rights activists are concerned after reports that political parties conspired to keep female voters out of the local council elections in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. What do common Pakistanis think?

- “Stopping women from exercising their rights to vote is despicable, but we must not lose hope and we must not give up. We must gather ourselves, start afresh, and design new election campaigns that target only male voters.” –Saleem Sciencedaan (freelance designer and PTI worker)

- “If I were a woman, personally speaking, I’d wait for a political party to show its real character in the face of retrogressive local customs before I go to Islamabad to dance in their public gatherings.” –Maulana Mushkook (rickshaw driver and part-time political analyst)

- “I really can’t understand why these local people don’t just give up their rotten, oppressive, chauvinistic cultural traditions themselves. Why do they have to wait for education, or for cultural reform, or for some non-government organization to organize a development related conference, or a fancy art project? I mean what do they hear in those conferences and awareness campaigns that they can’t think of themselves?” –M. A. Khan, M. A. (Freelance assistant project manager)

- “At least they can still call into morning shows on television to express their opinions, concerns, hopes and aspirations. Together they get to shape their future, and also learn to cook something new.” –Rana Rungbaaz (Railway engineer and stay-at-home dad)

- “This significantly increases the burden of responsibility on men’s shoulder to elect candidates that would be good for themselves and for the women of their household. Gender roles are equally oppressive for men and women.” –Pareshan Khan (men’s rights activist and part-time women’s rights activisit)

- “Qui tacet consentit goes the Maxim. In the eyes of the law, silence is consent. Thereby, as women did not vote, that shall be taken to mean that they do acknowledge the suitability of the candidates the men voted for. Moreover, declining to vote falls within the parameters of legal and constitutional rights of an individual. That would be all.” –Hairan Khan (lawyer and part-time plumber)

- “Women should post sexy selfies with friends on their Facebook profiles to make it look like they’re doing great, just to show the election candidates and political parties what they are missing.” –Sheikh Shoqeen (unemployed)

- “We have to understand that democracy and the electoral process are about much more than fundamental rights. We can’t rubbish the entire democratic process just because merely half the population did not get to vote.” –Salahuddin Serious (TV news anchor and freelance content writer)

- “We have to look at the positive side. When this system will crumble, at least women will not be sharing the blame for that.” –Professor Peeno (English teacher and part-time magician)

- “So what? It’s not such a big deal that women didn’t get to vote in the elections. Men also don’t get to have a say in women’s matters, such as who is sexier – Fawad Khan, Ali Zafar, or Imran Abbas Naqvi.” –Chachu Chalaak (business executive)

- “It’s unfair. I believe women should be allowed to vote in the elections. They must participate in the election process as long as they’re not running for any important office.” –Mullah Muskaan (software engineer)

- “It is unacceptable that women were not allowed to vote in the local elections. But we have to look at this in a context. The situation is alarming, but it is not as bad as in 2013, when women were not allowed to vote in the national and provincial elections. Things are slowly getting better.” –Daniyal Donor (development professional and freelance photographer)

- “Every citizen – regardless of their gender, caste, and faith – has a fundamental right to choose who will violate their fundamental rights after being elected to a political office.” –Raja Rabbit (waiter)

- “I believe men have no right stopping women from voting. Instead, they could just have told their women who to vote for and they would have complied.” –Noman Naughty (culture critic)