Election Monitoring Program
OBSERVATION REPORT OF THE FEMALE POLLING STATIONS IN ELECTIONS 2013 (Pakistan)
Aware Girls is young women led Organiztion working for the empowerment of young women, democracy and peacebuilding in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province since 2002. Aware Girls’ with the support of Australian High Commission Islamabad observed the elections in more than 60 female polling stations of District Peshawar, Mardan, and Swabi. The purpose of the observation was to monitor if women votes free and fairly, and to identify the issues faced by women during elections.
Aware Girls is thankful to Australian High Commission for their financial support to the project, FAFEN to the technical support, and Election Commission of Pakistan for facilitating Aware Girls’ team in observing the female polling stations. The monitoring was made possible because of the brave efforts of the young women who stood strong and observed the polling till counting process.
Aware Girls’ trained a team of around 80 young women in District Peshawar, Mardan and Swabi as Stationary election observers, and 15 young women as mobile observers. It was a historic moment in Pakistan, crowds of women were seen in the polling stations who were facing the heat, humiliation, and mismanagement but were committed to poll their vote. It was obvious that women were out to shape the democratic history of Pakistan.
The female voters turnout remain low in general in the three districts.
- In District Peshawar out of the 21 polling stations observed lowest female voters turnout was 24.2% and highest female voters turnout was 69.6%
- In District Swabi the lowest female voters turnout out of the 20 polling stations observed was 20% (Swabi), while zero votes were polled in one polling station after the local elders in the polling station forced the authorities to shut down the polling station (Shekh Dheri Swabi)
- In District Mardan out of the 25 polling stations observed there was zero turnout of females in one polling station, it was shut down after aggressive decision of local people. The lowest females voter turnout was 6.8% in a polling station of Swal Dheri Vilage
Some of the other issues identified by Aware Girls’ team during the observations was
- Occupation of the polling stations through arms (weapons) and allowing female voters of only their specific party/candidate for polling
- Occupation of the polling stations by the unauthorized political parties or candidates representatives (and Polling agents in some polling stations) and letting only women of their political party/candidate to enter the polling booth. The polling agents (whose duty is to observe the elections and make sure the process if followed) were doing political mobilization insude the polling booths, forcing women to vote for their political parties, and not in some polling station no allowing women inside the polling booth who were not voting for their political party/candidate.
- The polling agents were able to control the entry of women through the slips provided by the political parties workers to the voters for their serial number identification. Female voters with serial number slips of specific provided were given priority while others were left behind
- Voter mobilization happened not only within the polling stations but also inside the polling booths
- Quranic Oaths were taken at inside as well outside the polling stations from women to either vote for a specific candidate or not to vote at all if women don’t vote for the specific political party
- Fake votes were reported, at one polling station the stamp disappeared for some time and fake votes were polled through it. The ballot boxes also disappeared in some polling station at the time of counting.
- Different political parties camps/stall were located adjacent to the polling stations where bribes and vote selling was happening.
- The polling staff was not well trained in different polling stations and the official polling process was not followed in certain areas
- In the polling stations in the most remote areas of the three districts, the polling process not followed and voters kept on stamping votes in open thus giving the polling staff and polling agents control over women’s vote.
- In different polling stations, females were accompanied by polling agents as well as other unauthorized persons within the polling booth to the secrecy screen to influence women’s vote.
- Incidence of unarmed conflicts were reported from all target districts, which caused delay or pause in the polling process
- Mismanagement was reported from almost every polling station of District Peshawar, Swabi and Mardan. There was no female security officers to control the crowd of women and queue them, resulting in occupation of many polling stations by the crowd of women thus interpreting the voting process and giving opportunity to the political workers to influence women’s vote.
- The space in the polling stations was not enough leading to mismanagement and over crowding.
- From one polling station the voter stamp disappeared for some time and fake votes were reported
- The election staff in some polling stations was not well equipped with skills to conduct polling process.
- The counting process was in generally observed as transparent except one polling station where a ballot box disappeared.
Besides, these challenges, the positive aspect was that the voters turn out was highest in the history of Pakistan, the election staff in most of the polling stations were committed to their duty. It was a day which shaped the history of Pakistan democratically and the role of women has become much more important to sustain democracy.