WEB DESK: Responding to a request by the Chief Election Commissioner of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has invoked Article 245 of the Constitution empowering the army to maintain security and public order during the July 21 elections to the AJK Assembly.
Since the Kashmiris in different parts of Pakistan vote in the provinces of their residence, the PML-N governments in Punjab, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan have endorsed the decision to deploy soldiers at polling stations. But Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh have refused to follow suit, prompting the Interior Minister to criticise the two provincial governments, saying “it is not possible to deploy the army in some areas and not in others for the Azad Kashmir elections.” That makes sense also because these parties had favoured the same arrangement for the last national elections.
The electoral campaign in AKJ has been dominated by Pakistan-based parties: the PPP, PML-N and PTI. Over the years, the local parties have gradually disappeared. Their leaders have found it more beneficial to join these parties than to pursue their own agendas reflective of the local population’s concerns and aspirations. The only remaining local political party, the Muslim Conference, is participating as an ally of the PTI.
While PTI leader Imran Khan has been addressing big public rallies in AJK, the main contest is believed to be between the PPP, now ruling in Muzaffarabad, and the opposition Nawaz League. The electoral campaign of the former is being led by its firebrand young leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and that of the latter by Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Political Affairs Asif Saeed Kirmani along with Kashmir Affairs Minister Birjees Tahir.
No wonder the campaign issues are more of a general nature than specific to the region. The Nawaz League has been levelling usual allegations against the PPP government, accusing it of massive corruption and misrule. And by way of promising betterment the party has been offering its pet development schemes -basically, road construction projects – it has been undertaking in Pakistan. Meanwhile, Bilawal focused his campaign on a slogan that purports to paint Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as a leader who is betraying the Kashmir cause. That may have some saleable value, especially in the wake of ruthless repression in the Occupied Kashmir, but it does not help the cause in any way. Plans aimed at socio-economic uplift of the people living on this side of the LoC can serve the cause far better.
The important issue at this point in time for all involved should be to ensure the elections are held in a free and fair manner. Whatever their reservations the governments in KPK and Sindh also need to allow the army to supervise the polls so that the results of July 21 elections are unchallengeable. A controversial outcome will serve neither the interest of the Kashmiri people nor Pakistan.
Source: Business Recorder