Elections in AJK

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Raja Amin Afzal ACA
Azad Kashmir is a locality where elections and their results have always been predictable. Principally, because all funds and activities (economy, administration, security and bureaucracy) are controlled by Islamabad, this wave of control traverses easily into the adjoining AJK and results in the crowning of the same party in Muzaffarabad. And if any party survives otherwise, its governance is made impossible by the tactics played by those at the helm of Government in Pakistan. This year a nascent party (PTI AJK) has been introduced in AJK which has been criticized severely by its opponents in Pakistan for its bad governance. However, such tirades of criticism do not matter much in this area as long as the parent party is in power in Pakistan. Short history of AJK elections spanning over 46 years (1970 – 2016) can be made witness to the fact that there has never been a single government which was elected by the people of Kashmir. Instead it is always selected by the foreign elements. In a situation like this, claims held by Pakistan over Kashmir and its autonomous state are self-negating their genuinity. The first AJK government was established on 24 October 1947 without any elections and worked mainly as a “war council” to liberate the remaining parts of occupied Kashmir which is still a dream come true as such governments started all other activities except the one they were designed for. Such non-elected governments continued till 1970 when Sardar Abdul Qayyum became president based on adult franchise vote which in effect was installed by GHQ. In 1975, a parliamentary system was introduced in AJK and Khan Abdul Hameed Khan became the prime minister as the Peoples Party had come into power in Pakistan and had ensured a mirror government in AJK to meet the interests of the ruling clique in Islamabad. This assembly worked for two years and was suspended in 1977 under the martial regime of Zia ul Haq. The democracy remained suspended till 1985, when elections were held again, and Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan took charge as prime minister as a consequence of restoration of Muslim League in Pakistan. Next elections were held in 1990 when Raja Mumtaz Hussain Rathore was elected as prime minister during Benazir Bhutto’s government in Pakistan. This government could work for just one year and elections were contested again in 1991 which led to the formation of the government by Sardar Abdul Qayyum. During the 1996 elections, Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry became the prime minister under Benazir’s 2nd government. Whereas 2001 elections gave birth to sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan as prime minister. In 2006 – Sardar Attique Ahmed became prime minister due to support from Muslim League (Q) during Pervez Musharraf regime in Pakistan while in 2011, Chaudhry Abdul Majeed from PPP won the elections when the ruling party was PPP in Pakistan. Again during 2016 elections, the mirror image of government in Pakistan was framed in AJK, when PML (N) won the election marathon under the tutelage of its ruling government. All these historical trends of governance in AJK depict a straight- line link and 100% correlation with their ruling parties in Pakistan. Now the government for the 2021 elections is to be decided. However, as stated at the outset, this is quite easy to tell even for a layman, who will be crowned with the governance in Kashmir. The decision has been made and script has been written, only the hocus pocus will follow in the form of elections. Nowhere in the civilized world such systems can be categorized as democratic. The claims held by Pakistan over Kashmir as to its autonomous state are nowhere seen in reality and in practice. A territory which is controlled by foreign imposed Chief secretary, IG and AG does not fulfil the definition of the very word that was annexed to its name i.e. Azad (free) Kashmir. There are other reasons that justify such a trend of ‘might is right’ in Kashmir. The politics here does not revolve around agendas and principles. The development, working and infrastructure planning does not add anything to the credibility of people contesting elections. Instead, elections nay selections are governed by a caste system which is heavily prejudiced and is controlled by certain influential persons who govern the fate of all their tribes by a simple nod. And these leaders have nothing to do with the development and understanding of anything that revolves around the Kashmir issue, instead they look for money and personal gains which become very evident in the presence of the ruling party in Pakistan. So, they instantly shift their support towards the party holding the signs of future governance. That’s why recently many ministers from the incumbent government of PML(N) turned sides in response to the upcoming waves of PTI’s tsunami. This shift is even more prevalent at the grassroot levels.This is what politics and elections in AJK tantamount to. They don’t carry any democratic benefits and cannot be expected to lead the nation towards a democratic future that revolves around their development and prosperity.Kashmir is an attractive and fascinating site for tourists and is often compared to Switzerland but due to such puppet government’s attitudes and false rationalizations, she is left very underdeveloped and lacking necessary facilities in comparison with its counterpart under Indian occupation. The roads leading to even the most beautiful areas like Jhelum valley are still completely unpaved and are blocked during most of the year during snowfall. There are no jobs in the area resulting in an exodus of masses to foreign countries. Apart from the actions of such governments, intervention by the Army in the affairs of state has further debilitated the State’s will. Anyone who speaks against maladministration by the Army in these areas is soon noticed as vanished or quietened forever. Even the native parties are unable to survive on their own and look for partners (both political and military dictators) from Pakistan to gain some momentum here. The only prominent native party (that holds the license to contest elections here) thrives at its slogan “Kashmir will become Pakistan” to allow itself to contest elections here and to get the support of foreign elements prevalent in the state of affairs of AJK. Other nationalist parties i.e. JKLF and JKNSF are not allowed to contest elections here. In what part of the world, this is called democracy! The foreign parties governing here have completely defiled the local culture and traditions. The vernacular languages that were prevalent here a decade ago are no longer seen in the cities and also decaying perniciously in the far-flung villages. Unless such practices are abandoned and all Pakistani borne parties (including their funding and support of any kind to other indigenous parties) is banned completely, there is no hope for a positive political upheaval in the area. But governments, institutions and law-making agencies are all controlled by Pakistan. Under such conditions, the conundrum that remains is who will bell the cat?