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Last Updated: Monday, 18 July, 2005, 12:08 GMT 13:08 UK
Protest at women candidates ban
By Haroon Rashid
BBC News, Peshawar

Women protesters in Peshawar
The women have threatened legal action over the ban
Women human rights activists have protested in Pakistan's north-western city of Peshawar against a ban on female local election candidates.

The women protested outside the Peshawar Press Club on Monday saying the move was unconstitutional. They demanded full representation in polls.

Last week local politicians banned women from standing in upcoming elections in the remote Dir district.

The region is a stronghold of the hardline Islamist Jamaat Islami party.

'Inexplicable'

Protesters organised by the non-governmental organisation, the Aurat Foundation, demonstrated with banners and posters outside the press club.

If Jamaat Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad's daughter sits in the assembly, it is Islamic and 'very good' but if a woman contests elections in Dir, this is un-Islamic and banned
Akbar Khan,
rights activist

The called the agreement in Dir "unlawful".

It was sealed by local leaders of several political parties and those of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, Imran Khan's Tehrik Insaf, the ruling People's Party Sherpao and former premier Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (N).

Women in Dir have been barred from taking part in elections or even voting in the past.

Rukhshanda Naz of the Aurat Foundation said: "This is a blatant attempt to prevent women from participating in the political process.

"This is not just an obvious violation of fundamental human rights, it is also a repudiation of the equality guaranteed to women in the 1973 constitution."

Supporters of the ban say it follows time-honoured local traditions that women should not be involved in political activity.

"It's not just our decision but the decision of all the parties," said Jamaat Islami National Assembly member, Maulana Ahmed Ghafoor.

Ms Naz said her foundation was considering taking the parties to court over the ban.

A human rights activist in Dir, Akbar Khan, said the ban was inexplicable.

"If Jamaat Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad's daughter sits in the assembly, it is Islamic and 'very good' but if a woman contests elections in Dir, this is un-Islamic and banned," he said.

Despite past appeals to the chief election commissioner and to President Pervez Musharraf over such bans, no action has been taken.


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