Pakistan will be holding local government elections this weekend, but women will be barred from voting in some of the country’s most socially conservative regions. Local politicians and elders say that in some districts of the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), the parties have struck deals barring women from voting. Similar arrangements are suspected across the KP province, which borders Afghanistan, where several Pashtun communities will not even publish photographs of female candidates on election posters. In a parliamentary by-election in Lower Dir, earlier this month, none of the 50,000 eligible female voters actually turned out to vote, as mosques had broadcast warnings for them not to show up, and the few who tried were blocked by “baton-wielding men,” according to one report. While 12 women from the region demanded the election be re-run, their case was quickly thrown out by a high-court in Peshawar. Nida Khan, a women’s activist in Hangu, said she believed the discrimination would continue with impunity. “There is no government writ in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” she said. “We don’t need any Taliban since our so-called politicians with their extremist mindset are enough to push women into the dark.”
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