Monday, 30th October 2017

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 30.06.11

The two halves of Kashmir have just undergone the most remarkable elections ever. The Indian side recently witnessed a 16-phase panchayat election, held on a non-party basis, after a decade. In comparison, Pakistan- occupied Kashmir, called Azad Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan, saw unusually rancorous assembly elections that have left three dead and the national government amidst another crisis. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement, an ally in the Pakistan People’s Party-led federal government, has resigned from the coalition at the centre and in Sindh over allegations of electoral malpractice committed by the PPP in the AJK elections held in three constituencies in Sindh. Of the 41 seats in the AJK assembly, 12 are contested from the provinces to allow the Kashmiri diaspora to have a voice. The MQM believes that the PPP atrocities were committed after the former refused to let the PPP have one of the two AJK seats the MQM holds in Sindh. The PPP, which has won the AJK elections and is hoping to form the government in Kashmir, obviously denies the charge. But it is trying its best to patch things up with the MQM. This is not so much to salvage the federal government, which can survive without the MQM, now that the PPP has enough help from the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid). The PPP’s attempt to kiss and make up with the MQM has a wider context — the general elections of 2013, which, the PPP fears, could be brought forward if fickle allies such as the MQM team up with the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz).

The AJK assembly elections, in fact, became a microcosm of this larger political battle. Little wonder then that the national parties fought tooth and nail against one another. The PML(N), which had so long supported the incumbent Muslim Conference, directly contested the polls this time. With the presence of so many political bigwigs, the poll campaign itself was often reduced to a barrage of personal attacks on leaders of the two main opposing parties at the centre — the PPP and the PML(N). The needs and aspirations of the people of AJK became irrelevant in this exchange of invectives. The region has always been ruled by proxy, with the prime minister of Pakistan managing affairs through the Kashmir council. With the PPP at the helm, the AJK legislative assembly is likely to empathize more with the overriding political concerns of the party than with those of the people it seeks to represent.