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Voter participation: Mixed trends in women’s turnout

Women in a queue at a polling station in Dharampura. PHOTO: SHAFIQ MALIK/EXPRESS

Women in a queue at a polling station in Dharampura. PHOTO: SHAFIQ MALIK/EXPRESS

LAHORE: A high turnout of women voters was observed at polling stations in Samanabad and Garhi Shahu. The number of women voters was relatively less in other areas.

Women polling stations had been a significant focus of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s strategy to “counter rigging” in the Sunday by-election. Over the past two weeks, Khan had warned workers to be wary of rigging attempts, especially at women polling booths.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Farrukh Javed, a member of the Lahore district leadership, said the polling staff had not reported any major violation. However, he said, it was too early to comment in this regard. With only 400 to 500 women voters registered at the polling station 274 in Shah Jamal, women made their way to cast their votes at a slow pace.

The turnout remained low. The voters said they were satisfied with security arrangements. “Everything was well organised. There was no mismanagement at the polling stations,” said Shaista Javed, a voter.

A good turnout was also observed in Shadman, which is adjacent to Shah Jamal. The number of women voters here went up in the afternoon.

Ayesha Tauqeer, a resident of Jail Road, said she supported the PTI. She praised the arrangements at the polling booth. “It was good to see women coming out in large numbers,” she said.

There was a huge turnout of women voters in Samanabad, which is considered the heart of NA 122. A large number of women were seen queuing outside the polling station at Government Central Model School, Samanabad.

“The turnout has been impressive. No untoward incident was reported,” Nadira Malik, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) polling agent, said.

However, PTI agents at the Government Sulemania Public High School in the same locality were not very happy.

“The polling staff is creating hurdles for our voters,” said Khalida Rashid who was guiding PTI voters in front of the vote station. “Some of our voters have been told that their votes are not registered here… this is not the case.”

Polling station 260 in Garhi Shahu also saw a large number of female voters. The total number of women registered there was 1,644. According to the presiding officer, almost 50 per cent of women voters had cast their votes two hours before the polling ended.

A relatively low turnout of women voters was observed at the polling stations at a Boys High School at Aitichison College. Polling stations 100, 101 and 102 were located in the locality. “A polling station is not usually set up at Aitchison College… this could be a reason for low turnout,” said the polling station 101 presiding officer. Sarah Ahmed, a PTI member at the party’s camp, agreed. She said the voters had to cover almost half a kilometre on foot to reach the vote booth. “Cars are not allowed to enter the school premises.”

Polling stations 115 and 117, at the Kinnaird Girls High School located on Empress Road, had been reserved for women. As many 2,240 women voters were registered at the two polling stations; just over 600 votes had been cast by 5pm.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2015.

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