PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – A high court in northwest Pakistan Thursday ordered the authorities to withhold by-election results of two constituencies where women were not allowed to cast votes, an official said.
The country held by-elections after 42 seats became vacant after candidates in the May general elections held more than one seat and could keep only one.
"The Chief Justice of Peshawar High Court has taken the suo moto notice of media reports that women were not allowed to cast their votes in two constituencies of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province," a court official told AFP.
The chief justice Dost Mohammad Khan has directed the authorities to arrest members of any jirga (elder's council) who decided against women voting in Lakki Marwat and Nowshehra districts, the official said.
Orders have also been issued by the chief justice to the Election Commission to withhold the results of these constituencies and a court hearing will be started within 10 days, the official said.
Women's turnout is usually weak in the most conservative, rural parts of Pakistan, particularly within the tribal belt, the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and southwestern Baluchistan provinces.
Turnout in Pakistan's landmark May general elections was nearly 60 percent, making it the highest since 1977, according to official statistics.
In 2008, not a single vote was cast at 564 of 28,800 women's polling stations -- 55 percent of them in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, officials said. In the most conservative areas, officials estimated women's turnout at just 10 to 15 percent of those registered.