ISLAMABAD - The women lawmakers in the Senate on Friday called for legislation to discourage any cultural, social or other bars on women to cast votes in elections. This comes following recent incidents of disenfranchising women by local influential and political stalwarts in some areas of the country.

The women of the area were barred from voting in recently held by-elections in Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by local candidates of Jamat-e-Islami and Awami National Party (ANP).

And a jirga – including candidates of PML-N, PTI, PPP and JUI-F – in district Diamir of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) decided to impose a ban on women of the area to cast their votes in the elections for GB Legislative Assembly to be held next month. The house, the other day, criticised the decision of the jirga.

Speaking on a point of public importance, Senator Kalsoom Parveen of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said on Friday she wanted to move a bill in Senate that would bind the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) not to declare the election result of any constituency where women had been disfranchised.

She regretted that women who make up over 50 percent of the country’s total population were intentionally kept out of the voting process in recently held by-elections in Dir. JI’s winning candidate secured only 18,798 votes, while the runner up candidate of ANP stood second with 16,822 votes in what she said the ‘male-only’ election. She said that the number of total votes cast was around 35,000 and it could be said that the same number of women were deprived the right of their votes.

Senator Rubina Irfan, another voice of women in the Senate from Balochsitan, also endorsed Ms Perveen and criticised the political parties who used to make tall claims of equal rights for women but deprived the women of their basic right to vote. She also criticised men for getting all household services from women but depriving them of even as basic a right as voting.

Leader of the House in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq presenting a report in the house about the decision of Diamir jirga, which barred the women from voting in upcoming GB polls, said that women were temporarily barred there from polling because of shortage of women polling staff and also because there were no separate polling booths for women.

He said that the GB government has now arranged female polling staff there, besides ensuring separate polling booths for women in all other areas, as earlier some five people were killed there due to absence of female polling staff. The area is considered to be quite backward, he added.

On an adjournment motion regarding arrest and lodging of FIR against employees of KP Workers Welfare Board who were protesting at Korang Road, Islamabad, against their dismissal from service, the chair in its ruling directed the interior ministry to submit report within four days.

Taking part in the debate on the annual report on the observance and implementation of the federation’s principles of policy for year 2011-2012, Senator Usman Kakar from Balochistan said that Balochistan was country’s resource-rich but least developed province and it must be brought at par with developed provinces.

He said that poverty was one of significant factors behind the increase in militancy and insurgency in the country, adding this could be overcome only if the provinces would be given control over their resources. Declaring foreign policy and internal security of a country as highly important, he called for getting input from the provinces over these matters. He said that sense of deprivation among different nations living in the country would add to the problems of Pakistan.

Senator Col (r) Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) said that the government should pay attention to eradicate social evils and for this purpose social justice would have to be ensured. He further said that the people at the helm should take concrete measures to address the problems faced by the masses. The house also took up a call attention notice sponsored by a PPPP Senator regarding the murder of a woman in the name of honour in Mamoori area of district Dera Ghazi Khan.