During general elections back in May, the overwhelming turnout of the voters was a truly heartening sight. It reaffirmed the faith of the masses in the democratic process. However, the overall turnout of the women was rather abysmal, thanks to the political parties in different areas who colluded to keep the female vote out of the ballot.

The same trend can be discerned during by-elections. Reports are trickling in of female voters being barred from casting their vote.

PakVotes, a project monitoring the fairness of by-elections, tweeted on Aug 22:

@PakVotes: Bannu PK-70: There are rumors of an agreement between contesting candidates in Mardan on not allowing women to come out and vote. #PakVotes

Marvi Sirmed, a well-known civil society activist, cited many areas where females were being barred from polling stations:

@Marvi Sirmed: Women barred from voting in  #Hafizabad #Mardan #Hangu #Noashera #Mianwali #MandiBahauddin #Phalia #LakkiMarwat  As of 3:40 pm Aug 22

Open Ballot Box

Unsealed ballot box with yellow seals detached at polling station in PK-27, Mardan.

She further observed,

@MarviSirmed: All the constituencies where women have been barred from voting are in either #Punjab or #KhyberPakhtunkhwa

Sanam Jung, a notable VJ, specifically cited the NA-254 constituency, Karachi:

@VJ_Sanam: There is no diff. between Taliban & MQM (Altaf group) in NA-254 Karachi, women are not allowed to vote. #MQM stopping women

A field monitor of Pak Votes was able to obtain a joint agreement between agents at a specific polling station in Mardan. The agreement stated that women wouldn’t be allowed to cast their votes in the said polling station. An image of the agreement is posted below.

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However, in urban areas, many women cast their vote for the first time, as was also witnessed during the general elections.

Asma Shirazi, an anchorperson at a leading TV channel, revealed:

@asmashirazi: I have polled my vote for the first time in my life

Although the female voter turnout in many areas was far better than the last time and the overall female turnout registered a spike, the trend of barring female voters from casting vote in many regions of Punjab and KPK continues. This is especially true of such regions where religious conservatives have a heavy influence. Sadly, the authorities refused to register these anomalies during general elections and the same is expected in by-elections.

Cross-posted at Global Voices