If you held an election, and one faction threatened the other with death for daring to vote at all, and this had the effect of suppressing the turnout of the threatened group to the point where, in at least one major province, only 8 percent of its voters got to the polls, would the election be valid?
Most would say not. But that's pretty much what appears to have happened in Pakistan yesterday, except instead of a faction, it was gender that was targeted. Women were warned away from the polls by extremist religious parties, and most women, understandably, complied. This was especially true in Peshawar, near the Afghan border, where women poll workers risked their lives in valiant acts of feminism, in order to permit their sisters to vote at women-only polling stations.
Now, for reasons of practicality and stability, I'm not asking the world to throw out Pakistan's election results. But I do ask the media to consider how they report an election where women were bullied away from the polls. Kudos to the New York Times from examining the election from a gender angle. But no one seems to be asking whether this sort of intimidation of women adds up to a bogus vote.
--Adele M. Stan