Monday February 06, 2023

IK’s interviews for top AJK slot: Sudden emergence of a veteran, a newcomer among aspirants

July 31, 2021

ISLAMABAD: One of the prime ministerial hopefuls interviewed by premier Imran Khan for the top executive slot in Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) is a veteran Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader while another is a newcomer to the party.

The addition of two names to those interviewed – Khawaja Farooq and Chaudhry Azhar Sadiq – came as a surprise to many. It dispelled the impression that the prime minister’s choice is limited to only Barrister Sultan Mahmood, who has headed the AJK chapter of the PTI since 2015 when he had joined it, and billionaire Sardar Tanvir Ilyas, who owns a famous residential cum shopping complex in the federal capital and is a new entrant in the PTI and has contested elections for the first time.

Khawaja Farooq, who won a seat of the AJK Legislative Assembly (AJKLA) in Sunday’s general elections, hails from Muzaffarabad city. He had earlier fought in the 2016 polls on a PTI ticket but lost. That was a time when the PTI ticket was not in great demand. The party had bagged only two seats in those polls. Farooq’s old association with the PTI is being considered a major plus point for serious consideration of his name for the prime minister.

In the past, Khawaja Farooq had been a member of the AJKLA at least two times. He was also a minister in the earlier cabinet led by Sultan Mahmood while belonging to the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). For that reason, he had been close to Sultan Mahmood. He is one of the oldest PTI members in AJK.

Azhar Sadiq, who has been elected to the AJKLA from Dhudial, contested the elections for the first time. He is a nephew of famous Kashmiri politician Chaudhry Yousuf, who was a wealthy industrialist. Azhar Sadiq was educated in the UK where he has a sprawling business. He is said to be very affluent. The Chaudhry family had gone to the UK some six decades ago.

An AJK PTI insider told The News that during his interviews, Imran Khan did not indicate to any one of the four elected leaders that he would be made the premier of the state. However, all four of them told him that his decision would be acceptable to them and there would be no internal bickering in the PTI because of the decision.

It is stated that Sultan Mahmood has been told by some PTI leaders that he might be appointed the AJK president and his son would be given the party ticket for his Mirpur seat that would fall vacant as a result.

A PTI stalwart, who supports Sultan Mahmood, said on condition of anonymity that this was the first time that interviews were being conducted contrary to the time-tested practice that the leader heading the party becomes the prime minister should it win. Generally, political parties that have done their homework nominate their prime ministers beforehand, much prior to the elections.

He said that the questions asked during the brief sessions with the prime minister mostly pertained to the vision of the interviewees and how they plan the development of the region. In another development, Chaudhry Nayyar, who has been awarded the PTI ticket for a special seat, had been promised it before Sunday’s elections on the condition that he withdrew from the electoral fight for the Khoi Rutta (Kotli) seat. He had met his part of the deal by standing down.

When the PTI had awarded its ticket to Nisar Anser Abdali for the same constituency, Chaudhry Nayyar had planned to contest as an independent. The party felt that if he did so, the seat would be won by its rivals. Chaudhry Nayyar had won this seat multiple times and had been minister in previous cabinets.