Women Avoid Polls in Pakistan

On Monday, many Pakistani women were forced to stay home and away from polls due to the threat of terrorist violence. Religious militants intimidated women voters with suicide bombings, claiming that women should not have the right to vote. According to The New York Times, a series of violent attacks has discouraged both female and male voters.

Monday’s voter turnout was lower than the national elections held in 2002. Election officials said that in Peshwar, the provincial capital, 523 of 6,431 of registered women cast ballots. “We were thinking about not coming. People are afraid because of bombers, suicide bombers,” said Huma Shekel, a 22 year old college student, reports The New York Times.

After militants posted threatening signs, warning candidates not to urge women supporters to vote, elders in the Mattani district closed 30 polling stations specifically set aside for women. Naheed Begum, an election worker told the New York Times that only 72 of 1,300 registered women voters cast their ballot at her polling station.

Nasra Zahid, a zoology professor and a poll worker, said that the religious militants were grossly misunderstanding the Muslim faith and her desire to vote. She said, “These are not religious students, these are terrorists. Our religion gives completely the right to vote to women.”


New York Times 02/19/08; Daily Mail 02/18/08

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