LOWER DIR/MIANWALI  - Elders in Lower Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Mianwali district of Punjab have banned women voting in their respective areas.

According to BBC Urdu, the elders of KP-97 Lower Dir have decided that no woman would cast vote on May 11.

Similarly, the elders of Paikhel village in Mianwali also announced about the ban on women voting in the village on mosque loudspeakers.

According to reports, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Awami National Party (ANP) and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) candidates have reached an informal agreement to disallow women from voting in general elections for Lower Dir’s provincial assembly seat PK-94.

Political parties have previously barred women from voting in the same area and adjoining union councils. However, due to the ECP’s strict rules this time, candidates have asked their front men to carry out the agreement.

A KPK minister confirmed that women vote would be blocked in parts of the province under the tacit approval of the PPP, ANP, JUI-F, PML-N and JI.

“Yes I can confirm this agreement has taken place in Lower Dir, have reports of similar agreement from some other areas. But I am sure about Dir agreement and I had already communicated it to the Election Commission as well,” KP Information Minister Musarrat Qadeem told the media.

To a query that candidates are denying it, she said, “They would never accept but it has happened and they had also called me to deny it, but it did happen and action must be taken against it.”

The KP government is vigilant and would be focused on the job of ensuring free environment for women voters.

The Aurat Foundation has announced that it will challenge the result of the elections in the areas where the women voters are barred from polling. “We demand if such agreements have taken place, the ECP must take action and ensure that women voters are not stopped from casting votes. The EC has failed to stop this illegal act and we shall be challenging the move in the court,” a statement from the foundation reads.

After similar agreements in Lower Dir, political parties had followed suit in other parts of the province by agreeing to bar women from voting.

Leaders of the PML-N and the JI entered into an agreement in Buner, agreeing to bar women from casting their votes in the provincial assembly’s PK-78 constituency, a media report said.

Insaf Committee Sorey Union Council Chairman Sardar Muhammad told the media that the PML-N’s Abdul Hameed and JI’s Afzal Hussain agreed to bar women from voting at the Topi Polling Station.

Reacting to the ban on women voting in parts of KP, Aurat Foundation’s KP head Shabina Ayaz said it was a serious violation of the code of conduct and the ECP must take action against the candidates.

She said that agreements had been signed by party candidates and their workers in the past but this time they were relying on verbal accords. She said the agreements would deprive a sizeable population of votes.

A jirga in Swat district’s Amankot village decided that the village women would not cast their votes.

The Awakening is protesting at the Swat Press Club against the incident and said in a statement: “We strongly condemn the decision taken by various jirgas attended by candidates, workers of various political parties in PK-80 constituency of Swat, which decided not to allow women to cast vote.”