Scores of excited women thronged to polling stations across the city on Friday to participate in the first phase of the local government elections in the Punjab.
Representatives of political parties, presiding officers and voters expressed satisfaction with the arrangements made and the overall turnout of women voters. The total number of registered voters across the Punjab stands at 20,121,921. Of these, 8,776, 676 are women. The total number of registered voters across the city stands at 4,343, 329. Of these, 1,855,949 are women.
The presiding officer overseeing the women polling booth in ward-4 of Union Council-61 said women had been frequenting the polling station since 7:30am. “Their number has been gradually increasing,” she said. 60-year-old Shagufta Bibi told The Express Tribune that she had ended up coming to the wrong polling station. She said she had not read the slip carefully. Bibi said the presiding officer had informed her that she would have to go to Cathedral School to cast her vote. She said she would go there now.
24-year-old Sidra Bashir, a voter from ward-1 of UC-199, said the entire process had been extremely smooth. Even though a large number of people could not be seen at Dar-i-Arqam School in Shadman, the number of votes cast there by women was high.
Barring a few exceptions, polling at women booths at polling stations across the city progressed without incident. An argument between Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and PTI agents in polling station-1 of UC-225 temporarily disrupted balloting there. A similar development transpired at a polling station in UC-57. PTI polling agents at a polling station in UC-228 claimed to have caught a woman casting counterfeit votes. She was later handed over to police. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Sajida Mir staged a protest demonstration outside a polling station in UC-70 where Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had also cast his vote. Voting had remained suspended there for two hours to allow the prime minister to cast his vote. Mir said the temporary closure of the polling station had created room for electoral malpractice.
PPP Lahore president Samina Ghurki expressed satisfaction with the general conduct of the elections. She said the polls had been conducted smoothly and no major challenge had confronted women voters. Ghurki said this also held true for men voters.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Lahore women wing vice president Tanzila Imran also expressed satisfaction with the general conduct of elections. She said that more women had turned out to cast their votes than they had expected. Imran said the presence of policemen at women polling stations in Shahdara was an issue. She said this had discouraged some from casting their votes.
PML-N’s Azma Bokhari said the number of women who had participated in the elections was heartening. “It is a matter of pride to see so many women make their way to polling stations to essay their due role in the democratic process,” she said. Barring a few exceptions, Bokhari said, the elections had been conducted without incident.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2015.