QUETTA   -   Due to cultural taboos, lack of education and awareness, no woman contested election on any general seat in 10 districts of Balochistan in the recently held local government (LG) polls.

Killa Abdullah, Chaman, Nushki, Chagai, Zhob, Sherani, Killa Saifullah, Harnai, Ziarat and Surab are the districts which went without any woman candidate on general seats.

Only 132 women (less than one per cent) contested in various wards in urban and rural councils of Balochistan, says a report released by Free and Fair Elections Network (FAFEN).

Balochistan completed the first phase of the local government (LG) polls to elect over 6,000 general councillors. The polling remained controversy-free followed by prompt acceptance of the results by all major political parties.

Despite sporadic illegalities and irregularities, the elections remained largely peaceful, orderly and better-managed. Campaigning and canvassing around polling stations, non-provision of copies of result forms to polling agents, inconsistent compliance with the legal provision to permit voters present inside the polling station after 5 pm to cast their vote and issues of secrecy of voters remained some of major areas that need to be stringently enforced. FAFEN observers reported large number of voters turning out to vote on election-day. Although majority of polling stations (65 per cent) were categorized as sensitive or most-sensitive security-wise, the election-day remained largely peaceful with scattered incidents of local violence reported in 23 districts. Election Day followed a highly competitive campaign with political parties and independent candidates freely canvassing in a largely peaceful environment. As many as 17,774 candidates - 17,642 male and 132 female - were in the run for general seats fielded by 17 political parties in 6,259 wards (5,345 rural and 914 urban wards) in municipal corporations, municipal committees and union councils. The ECP had set up a total of 6,237 polling stations – 671 male, 652 female and 4,914 combined. These polling stations had a total of 13,533 polling booths including 6,867 for men and 6,307 for women to facilitate 3,614,724 voters – 2,043,828 male and 1,570,896 female voters. Following the May 29 elections of representatives on general seats, ECP is now due to hold indirect elections for the seats reserved for women, peasants or workers, and religious minorities, and the elections for Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of the local councils.

Moreover, the ECP has yet to announce schedule for general seats elections in two major districts with sizeable urban population in the province i.e. Quetta and Lasbela, which were earlier withheld because of issues with the delimitation of wards.

Scattered incidents of localized violence in 23 districts partially disrupted the polling processes on election-day.

FAFEN observers reported 63 incidents of violence inside on around 53 polling stations. A majority of these were verbal brawls and scuffles between workers of contesting candidates and political parties, while a few incidents of armed and unarmed physical clashes were also reported.

As many as six persons including a child were reportedly injured due to these armed and unarmed physical clashes. In addition to FAFEN observation, local media also reported various incidents of armed and unarmed clashes resulting in at least one death and multiple injuries. Though the ECP has taken extraordinary measures over the last few years to improve inclusivity of elections particularly by focusing on women, persons with disabilities and transgender people, women participation as candidates has remained a cause of serious concern. Such low contestation by women reinforces the need for political parties to reform their local structures and organization to encourage more women and other members of marginalized segments of population to emerge as leaders.