Kabirwala’s village women cast votes for first time

Qaisar Nadeem Mehar
Monday, Feb 12, 2024

KABIRWALA: Breaking all the traditional barriers, several women thronged to a polling station set up\ near a government school, defying all odds, to cast their votes for the first time in the history in a Kabirwala village on February 8.

A long queue of women was seen outside the Government Girls Elementary School Mohripur polling station No-74 in constituency NA-144 Kabirwala. Former union council chairman Ghulam Mustafa Aulakh, an advocate, visited the polling station to force the women to go back to their homes without casting their votes, but six women managed to cast their vote under the security of local media. Returning Officer Mohsin Alam told The News that women had voted in the Mohripur village for the first time in the history of Pakistan despite hindrances.

“We have made history and it is the first time that women have come out of their homes to cast vote,” said Farzana Bibi who came to the polling station to cast her vote. Since 1947, women have been deprived of their constitutional rights on the pretext of cultural taboos. Men banned women from voting in the village of Mohri Pur sometime around 1947, and they have obeyed ever since until this year, she added. A patwari of the area, Chaudhry Noor Sultan Sahu, said that their tribal elders had prohibited the women from casting their votes in 1947 because of honour and they are still complying with these orders 76 years on. “In patriarchal communities, when male chauvinism decides a matter and deems it sacred, women have no choice but to obey.

This is exactly what is happening in Mohri Pur, where girls go to school, the women go to work, and even engage in business but have no vote right”, said Sajid Bandesha, a resident of Mohri Pur. The Step Organisation (NGO) Director Syed Farrukh Raza said that he and his team had mobilised a few female voters to exercise their right to vote in the 2024 general elections and he was hopeful that 100% of female voters would exercise their votes next time.

He said that it took a decade to convince the women to cast their votes and finally he was successful in convincing the fewer of them. Female activist Mrs Tabassum said that village elders had banned women from casting votes claiming that visiting a public polling station would “dishonour” them. “I don’t know where their honour goes when they lie down at home as their women go in the fields for labour,” Tabbasum added, scathingly. Farzana Bari, a gender expert and rights activist, after casting vote, said that it is believed that if they (women) went to vote alone, there would be violence and unrest so it was better not to vote, but she is now determined to get as many women to the polls as possible in next election. Bismillah Eram, a member of the district council, said that the men were stubborn as she had been trying since 2001 to cast a vote but nobody listened to her and she would listen to the men’s propaganda that ‘women didn’t want to cast vote so they did not force them. “But the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has declared that at least 10 percent of voters in each constituency must be women, otherwise its results will be voided,” she added.

A local religious person said that the Ulema Council had already issued a decree affirming the legality of voting, with specific arrangements in place for women in a democratic process to exercise their voting rights. Ms Qaisar, while casting her vote in Mohripur, was excited and expressed her feelings while talking to The News, saying that she was the first woman who made history to cast a vote in Mohripur. She also urged other females to come out and use their voting rights. Qaiser believed that her vote would serve other women to cast their vote. “Women constitute 52% of our society and people have adopted various tactics to keep this majority under their control.

One such tactic is not allowing women to exercise their right to vote,” she said. She did not vote in the General Elections of 2018 due to inadequate security arrangements. Deputy Election Commissioner Khanewal Sardar Mazhar said that the ECP would accept the results from Mohri Pur because he is satisfied with the results. He also said that at meetings of ECP officials with Mohri Pur community leaders, they found no evidence of coercion or intimidation in preventing women from casting their votes.