SWAT VALLEY, May 18,2013 (Fazal Khaliq / UPI Next) — Dozens of women in Swat Valley’s Peochar, a former militant stronghold, cast ballots in Pakistan’s May elections, voting with other constituents against Islamist candidates. The returns, which heavily favored secular parties, surprised many Pakistanis, who remember the fighters’ invasion in the autumn of 2008.
Peochar voters overwhelmingly chose the reformist Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party led by cricket star Imran Khan over religious parties. Activists and voters noted that without the Taliban monitoring or closing polling sites, as happened in 2008, voters could cast their ballots without fear.
A single polling station was set up in the valley, with separate voting areas for men and women.