Jirga again bans women from voting in Tangir area of Diamer

Stage set for polls in Gilgit-Baltistan Sunday (tomorrow)

By: News Desk      Published: 03:47 PM, 14 Nov, 2020
Jirga again bans women from voting in Tangir area of Diamer

Just like the past, a local jirga at Tangir district in the Diamer area of Gilgit-Baltistan again banned the women from casting votes in the elections scheduled to be held tomorrow (Sunday), reported 24NewsHD TV channel on Saturday.

It means the women in Tangir valley will continue to be deprived of their right to vote. This area borders Upper Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where many women face similar restrictions.

Previously, Tangir was part of the Diamer district. However, the regional government of Gilgit-Baltistan carved out two more administrative units – Tangir and Darel which were formerly tehsils of Diamer – out of the old larger district.   

According to sources, all the candidates have agreed to the move and will get 300 votes each on behalf of women. They also completed deliberations with the returning officer on the issue.

Locals say the women in Tangir valley never participated in the polling process and the candidates get votes on the basis of consensus.

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However, the Election Commission’s rules make it clear that at least 10 percent women have to vote in every constituency and only then the election would be validated.

Thus, the jirga’s decision is an open violation of the law. However, the returning officer, Sher Muhammad, refused to comment on this serious matter.

Meanwhile, Tangir – in complete defiance of local traditions – has a woman candidate in these elections. Her name is Sadia Danish who is contesting the polls on PPP ticket.

When she submitted her papers for elections, people warned that the woman would not return alive if she visited the area for campaigning. As a result, she is not able to be part of her electioneering amid death threats. Meanwhile, police have not taken any action or made arrests over the issue.

So Sadia is now campaigning for other party candidates in Gilgit instead of going ahead with her plans.

In a recent report, BBC mentions that it is the same area where girls’ schools are torched. Last year, 12 such educational institutions were reduced to ashes in the Diamer area with three of those located in Tangir.

It was in 2009 when elections were held for the first time in Gilgit-Baltistan but the killing of four people caused this blanket ban on women voting in future, the BBC explained.

The killings were a result of a petty dispute at a polling station in Darel – now a separate district. A woman arrived there to cast her vote. One of the polling agents asked her to remove face covering for voter identification. But her husband, who was accompanying the woman, said who he was to ask that to his wife. It triggered a fight which culminated with four deaths.

Voting tomorrow

Stage is set for polls in Gilgit Baltistan tomorrow (Sunday). Time allotted for electioneering in the northern region came to an end Friday night.

For those who didn't stop campaigning, the region's chief election commissioner warned of legal action for violating rules. He, however, also dismissed allegations of fraud and rigging by the opposition as premature and 'baseless'. 

A total of 745,361 voters will be voting for 23 constituencies at 1,160 polling stations. The region's administration said at least 15,900 law enforcement personnel would be deployed for security purposes.

Out of the 847 polling booths, 418 have been declared highly sensitive, 311 sensitive and 431 normal.

Surveys by Gallup and Pulse Consultant revealed close contest between the Imran Khan-led PTI and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's PPP while PML-N comes third. 

The surveys found PM Imran Khan as the most popular leader in GB followed by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Nawaz Sharif.

Around 30 percent of voters believe elections will be transparent and free of rigging.

When asked about which political party they would vote for on 15th Nov (the Election Day), 27 percent of Gallup respondents said they would vote for PTI, 24 percent said PPP, and 14 percent said PML-N.

On the other hand, 35 percent of Pulse Consultant respondents said they would vote for PTI, 26 percent said PPP and 14 percent said PML-N. Gallup survey shows there is a gap of only three percent between the PTI and PPP as the first choice of voters. However, in the Pulse survey, the gap between the two leading parties is nine percent but the trend is the same – PTI is the first choice, PPP second and PML-N third.

However, most of the results would depend on the electoral dynamics of the Election Day and the voters turn out as who is able to assist their voters to come out and vote for them.