Saturday September 18, 2021

AJK elections

July 27, 2021

With the AJK Legislative assembly elections over and nearly all unofficial results out, the ruling party in the centre – the PTI – will form the next government in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). With the clear majority the PTI has claimed, it will be able to lead the government on its own and there appears to be no need to seek any alliances to form the next government. The PTI is far ahead of its competitors in at least 25 of the total 45 general seats. According to unconfirmed results from the Election Commission of AJK, the PPP has won in 11 constituencies, whereas the PML-N has led the field in six constituencies. The PTI’s regional chief Barrister Sultan Mahmood has emerged as a strong candidate to become the next prime minister in AJK as he secured his seventh success in the ninth general elections.

The campaigning in AJK had been extensive with both Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto spending considerable time in the area to push for their candidates. Prime Minister Imran Khan had also visited the area. While the polling process was generally smooth and has been approved by the Election Commission with polling on four seats to be looked into once again for the purpose of transparency, there was violence with two PTI activists unfortunately killed in a clash with PPP men. The outcome of the polls is not different to what was expected on the whole, and PTI ministers have quickly criticised the opposition for casting doubts over them. However, Bilawal Bhutto has claimed systematic rigging by the PTI while Maryam Nawaz has said she will not accept the results at all. There was also an unfortunate skirmish over the media between Maryam Nawaz and Imran Khan – in an exchange which should never have taken place. All said, it would be best to address the concerns of both opposition leaders and investigate allegations of rigging.

Meanwhile, the AJK elections also brought up the matter of Occupied Kashmir. In his speech delivered at a rally ahead of the polls, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that if the referendum mandated by the UN Security Council was held in Occupied Kashmir, Pakistan would be willing to grant autonomy if that is what its people sought and voted for. This is a brave statement and also indicates a commitment to recognising the wishes of the Kashmiri people. We hope that with the elections over, the PTI which now forms the government in AJK can offer the people good governance and deliver in terms of human development.