The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll pangs in the other Kashmir

Muzaffarabad, PoK, Sept. 17 (Reuters): Residents of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir were strongly critical of elections on the Indian side, but some said militants only played into Delhi’s hands by threatening to disrupt the polls.

Others said past elections in the Pakistani part of the disputed region left a lot to be desired, too.

“The mujahideen should have not issued a threat to disrupt the elections,” Yasir Hayat, a Kashmiri in his twenties, said referring to warnings by militants earlier this year.

“It will benefit India by allowing it to give the impression around the world that Kashmiris wanted to take part in the elections but they were scared away by the threats,” he said.

Speaking in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Hayat said he believed most Kashmiris did not want to take part in the elections, even without the threats from the militants. “Had the mujahideen not given such a threat, it would have exposed at an international level that Kashmiris do not want to live with India,” he said.

In July, the United Jihad Council, an umbrella organisation of militant groups, urged a boycott of the polls and warned election supporters of dire consequences. One of its hardline members threatened to kill anyone who took part as a candidate, a voter or a supporter of the polls.

The Election Commission has reported a turnout of 44 per cent in the first round of voting on Monday, despite fresh attacks by militants.

While criticising India’s election, some people in Pakistani Kashmir are unhappy with the version of democracy they are served up on their own side of the Line of Control.

Zahid Sheikh sought to stand as a candidate for the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front in elections for Pakistani-controlled Kashmir’s 48-member Assembly in July 2001.

His nomination papers and those of several other party colleagues were rejected on the basis that they had not signed a declaration stating they supported the accession of disputed Kashmir to Pakistan.

Sheikh said elections in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir were not conducted according to democratic norms. “They are not free and fair. Election laws bar the pro-independence people from taking part,” he said.

Members of the Assembly in Indian Kashmir also have to take an oath that they are loyal to the Indian constitution.

Sameena Sabir, a 23-year-old student, said elections could never resolve the Kashmir issue.

“It is not the issue of elections but it is the issue of right to self-determination of Kashmiri people,” he said. “In fact, Kashmiris are not struggling for holding elections but they are fighting for the right to self-determination.”

Hizb price

The Hizb-ul Mujahideen has offered Rs 1 lakh to its cadre for killing candidates contesting the Jammu and Kashmir election.

The information came to light yesterday when the army intercepted a message from the Hizb-ul supreme commander based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, a northern command spokesman said here today.

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