PESHAWAR: A single-member Peshawar High Court bench has issued a stay order temporarily stopping the Election Commission of Pakistan from notifying the Jamaat-i-Islami candidate’s victory in the recent by-elections for a tehsil council seat from Shahikhel area in Lower Dir district over the alleged disenfranchisement of women.
Justice Arshad Ali issued notices to the respondents, including the chief election commissioner, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial election commissioner and the successful candidate, Gul Hakeem Khan, asking them to file written replies to the petition against the alleged denial of voting right to women in the Dec 21 by-polls.
The bench fixed for Dec 29 (Friday) the next hearing into the petition jointly filed by by-election candidates Inayatur Rehman, Dilawar Khan, Manzoor Ahmad, Fazal Wahab and Hisamuddin, and women voters Bakhtmina, Baitul Miraj, Haseen Zeba, Khaest Begum and Miraj Bibi.
Candidates, voters had moved PHC alleging women were barred from casting vote
It also asked the ECP not to notify the winning candidate’s name until the next hearing.
The petitioners requested the court to declare the election of tehsil councillor in union council and ward Shahikhel held on Dec 21 void and illegal and order the holding of re-election.
The respondents in the petition are the chief election commissioner; provincial election commissioner; returning officer for the by-elections Gul Hakim Khan; provincial finance minister Muzaffar Said, and Timergara tehsil nazim Riaz Khan.
In some tehsil councils of Upper and Lower Dir districts, women didn’t cast votes resulting into a public outcry with the civil society groups demanding of the ECP to declare the by-polls void.
The petitioners’ counsel, Muzzamil Khan, said ahead of the by-polls, finance minister Muzaffar Said had begun pre-poll rigging for his party’s candidate, Gul Hakim, and launched Rs300 million worth of development works in the area.
He added that cash payment was also made to the voters in the said locality and as such, the entire by-election was manipulated.
Muzzamil Khan claimed that on the day of polling when women voters came to the polling station, only two of them managed to make their way inside, whereas other women were stopped from stepping in.
He added that the doors of polling stations were closed by local nazim Fazal Qadir and Jamaat candidate Gul Hakim.
The lawyer said the two women voters, who had entered the polling station, were detained there for some time before being allowed to leave from the back door.
He said four of the petitioners, who were candidates, had repeatedly requested the local administration to ensure voting by women, but to no avail.
The lawyer said the right to vote was an inalienable right of every citizen of the country whether it was general elections or local body elections and that the Elections Act 2017 recently enacted in this regard was applicable to all polls.
He said Section 9 of that law provided that if the turnout of women voters was less than 10 per cent of the total votes polled during elections in a constituency, the Election Commission of Pakistan might presume that women voters were restrained from casting votes through an agreement and therefore, it might declare polling at one or more polling stations or across the constituency void.
The lawyer Gul Hakim of the Jamaat-i-Islami was actively involved in stopping women voters through his agents along with the nazim of Shahikhel and local administration and that as such, he had practically manipulated votes inside the polling station, which warranted the high court’s intervention for necessary action.
courtesy- Dawn, December 28th, 2017