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Saturday November 27, 2021

Azad Kashmir election heats up: PML-N takes conscious decision to avoid responding to PPP tirade

July 14, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has taken a conscious decision to ignore the tirades against it by Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari during the campaign for the general elections to the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly (AJKLA).

“We have decided not to respond to Bilawal’s diatribe or to attack the PPP during our campaign as our target is Prime Minister Imran Khan and the system he heads and that has created him,” PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal told The News.

During his election speeches, Bilawal has frequently scathingly attacked the PML-N, specifically its Vice President Maryam Nawaz, quoting her remarks. But he has also simultaneously been critical of the prime minister.

While the PML-N in its poll drive has ignored Bilawal’s attacks against it, its senior leaders have been reacting to his remarks during their appearances in TV talk shows while answering questions from the hosts.

Ahsan Iqbal said that the PML-N doesn’t want to fight on two fronts – the PPP and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) -- and waste its energies on such an exercise. “We want to be focused on those who have brought Pakistan to this sorry pass.”

He claimed that by attempting to attack the PML-N, the PPP was giving comfort to the PTI, which wants the opposition parties to keep taking each other on. “We don’t want to facilitate the PTI by locking horns with the PPP, which has been tasked to create dents in the opposition’s unity.”

Ahsan Iqbal said that without any doubt the PTI felt encouraged and thrilled when the PML-N and PPP denounced each other. The PTI is put on the backfoot when the two major opposition parties speak with one voice on major issues, he said.

Meanwhile, from the PML-N side, Maryam Nawaz has taken over the election drive of her party in Azad Kashmir and is addressing public rallies every day. In the early stage, it was stated that both she and party president Shehbaz Sharif will be on the campaign trail as directed by PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif.

Maryam Nawaz has devoted her time to talking about the Kashmir cause, particularly the government’s policy after the annexation of the occupied part of Kashmir by India. She is single-mindedly blasting the prime minister on this issue.

From the PTI side, a set of federal ministers and party leaders is taking care of its electioneering. Fiery speakers Ali Amin Gandapur and Murad Saeed have been assigned this job and are playing on the front foot. Gandapur has created a stir because of his no holds barred onslaught against Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal. The ministers are slamming both the PML-N and PPP.

For the first time in AJK election campaign history, the state election commissioner has ordered the registration of a case against Gandapur for openly distributing money among voters during a rally. The act was captured and aired by TV cameras. It seems that the AJK electoral commission has taken a cue from the Election Commission of Pakistan by showing courage and acting against the minister without fear or favour.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is scheduled to involve himself in the PTI’s poll campaign by addressing a few rallies in the major cities of Azad Kashmir. He plans to speak at public meetings in Mirpur and Muzaffarabad.

Much before the PML-N and PTI kick-started their poll campaigns, Bilawal had already started addressing rallies in Azad Kashmir. He remained engaged in the exercise for two weeks but had to cut short his electioneering because of his departure for the United States on a ten-day trip.

In his absence, no other prominent PPP leader has taken the campaign forward in a meaningful manner. When Bilawal returns, just a few days would be left until the close of canvassing. During that period, he would renew his contacts with the Kashmiri electorate expecting a better performance in the July 25 polls than last time.

While the politics in Pakistan have become quieter after the multi-party opposition coalition, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), lost steam -- mainly due to the fissures within it and its lack of public activities threatening the government -- Azad Kashmir has heated up owing to a fiercely contested election campaign.