While the other jarring notes in the 2013 general elections and 2015 local body elections were highlighted by political parties and the media, the incidents of discrimination against women voters went largely undisclosed after the initial reporting. Perhaps an open discussion that asks hard questions about such issues are still low on the government’s priority list, at least an indirect attempt to address the problem has been made. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) recently formed the Gender and Disability Electoral Working Group (GDEWG) to review and suggest new legislation to encourage participation of women and people with disabilities in the electoral processes as voters, candidates, electoral administrators and neutral observers. It is certainly a great initiative, but unless the ECP follows through with this, it is going to falter like countless great ideas before.

Hopefully, with the government working with groups such as UNDP, IFES, DRI, Rozan, RSPN, Oxfam G.B. Insan Foundation, Action Aid, Care International and Aurat Foundation, there is sufficient expertise and pressure to make sure that the working group comes up with viable solutions. While the group’s efforts will certainly help – assuming that the suggestions are eventually turned into law – it must be recognised by the government that the majority of problems can be solved by implementing existing law. Barring women from voting and not making polling stations universally accessible is already against the law and the ECP code of conduct. New legislation would be just as useless if problems in implementation are not sorted.