A precedent was set in the May 2013 general elections, when local politicians and tribal elders colluded to bar women from casting votes in several areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Wana. No action was taken against this illegal act.

In the August by-polls, once again, tribal elders banned local women from casting their votes at various polling stations in Lakki Marwat (NA-27) and Nowshera (NA-5). Polling was halted, and a re-poll ordered, after the Chief Justice Peshawar High Court took notice. Politicians contesting polls in the area remained silent, lending weight to the notion of an informal understanding once again depriving women of their constitutional right to vote. When people break the law and face no consequences, they are likely to repeat the crime. The by-elections of August, 2013 are testament to that fact.

It would be a mistake to see the situation in Nowshera and Lakki Marwat as an isolated incident. Similar reports have surfaced from the Ghang Sharif area of Lahore, where not a single woman voted at the local polling stations.

More than antiquated tribal elders, it is more worrying to note that political parties claiming pride in championing the cause of democracy appear to be restricting themselves to its basic principles only on paper. Through their behaviour, candidates demonstrate a respect only for victory at the polls, unburdened by any respect for the basic values that guide a healthy democratic society.

The very fundamentals of the democratic process dictate, “One person, one vote”. The fact that a woman’s vote is considered disposable, and a favour to be granted, not a right that is held, is a notion that Pakistan’s politicians are meant to fighting against, not perpetuating.

The candidates who believe that only the male voices can make an informed decision at the polls, are the same nominated by their parties and duly elected in and sworn to obey the constitution of the country. The same constitution that grants every person over the age of 18 -- even those in prison -- a right to a vote. Far be it to expect politicians to keep this oath, they are demonstrably not worthy of even swearing it.

So far, the leaders of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Awami National Party, Jamiat e Ulema Islam, Qaumi Watan Party, Jamiat e Ulema Islam (F) and Muslim League (N) have done what they do best, condemned the act and nothing more.  If their concern is genuine, why wait for the courts, why not evict the offending candidates from their parties and set an example?