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Edict on women in elections an offence

B. Muralidhar Reddy

Pakistan poll panel warns of stern action against offenders

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Election Commission has warned of stern action against anyone barring women from the local polls next week, including cancellation of results.

Acting Chief Election Commissioner Abdul Hameed Dogar told foreign media correspondents based here that the Commission was determined to ensure "free and fair" elections.

The system of elected local bodies was created by President Pervez Musharraf prior to the October 2002 general election. As in 2001, the election is on non-party basis and is being held in phases in different parts of the country.

The Opposition parties have accused the Government of "rigging" and are sore with the Commission for turning a "blind eye" to irregularities by the ruling combine at the Centre.

Justice Dogar's warning came in the wake of complaints by police and rights groups that in parts of the NWFP edicts were issued against women's participation.

"This is an electoral offence, legal action will be taken against anyone involved and such a poll will be void," Justice Dogar said. Election observers from European Union and Commonwealth countries have started arriving and they will be free to monitor the elections.

The Commission had taken suo motu notice of media reports that one candidate promised his three-year-old daughter's hand in marriage to a rival politician on condition that he drop out.

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