ISLAMABAD: The result of the by-poll held in an Upper Dir union council on December 21 must be declared null and void as all contenders colluded to deny women their right to vote, the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) has urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).Meanwhile, the provincial election commissioner and the Upper Dir DCO have started a probe into the matter. Action will be taken in accordance with the findings, they have assured Daily Times.In its statement, NCSW had said that the leadership of all political parties of the area had gotten together a day before the by-election. At the gathering, they held in Darora union council, they reached a verbal agreement to bar women from casting their votes. Among 17,201 registered voters in the area, 6,813 are women.As per the agreement, no woman participated in the by-poll.The NCSW strongly condemned what it said was a clear violation of the basic right of area women. “It is unfortunate that political parties from both right and left schools of thought agreed to stop women from casting their vote despite the fact that the result of any such election has to be declared null and void under the law.The NCSW demands the leadership of all political parties that were part of this agreement to take notice of the situation and ensure strict measures against all those involved so that such practice is never repeated in the future,” the statement said.The commission also urged women parliamentarians to take up the matter in the Parliament as well as within their parties. “The NCSW believes that democratic process is incomplete without women participation,” it said.Speaking to Daily Times, Upper Dir DCO Muhammad Usman Mehsud said he had reached out to the leadership of all political parties to ascertain the facts of the matter. “We will take action as per law if we find any credible and authentic information to verify the claim,” he said. He said the right to vote is constitutionally mandated irrespective of one’s caste, creed and religion.Haroon Shinwari, the additional DGPR election Commission, said the provincial Election Commissioner had tasked the district election officer to verify the facts. “The district officer will submit the report on December 26 (today) then the provincial election authority will take action accordingly,” Shinwari added.Published in Daily Times, December 25th 2017.