ISLAMABAD: The number of aspirants for the position of the Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) premier has swelled to half a dozen and the number could go up as Prime Minister Imran Khan conducts interviews of the hopefuls.
Two recent additions to the list are Nisar Ansar, elected from Kotli, and Sardar Qayyum Nayazi, who was returned from Bagh. They were especially flown from their hometowns to the federal capital for separate interviews with the prime minister, it is reliably learnt.
During his first campaign rally in Bagh, Imran Khan, while reading out the names of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidates for the district, had expressed a little surprise over Qayyum Nayazi’s candidature, but hastened to add that Niazis are spread all over Pakistan.
However, an old hand in Kashmir politics said that when this Sardar Qayyum had joined the Muslim Conference led by (late) Sardar Abdul Qayyum a long time ago, the latter had remarked to him that there couldn’t be two “Sardar Qayyums” in the party. Then, Sardar Qayyum, now elected to the AJK Legislative Assembly (AJKLA) had added the suffix of “Nayazi” to his name.
In the process of interviewing the prime ministerial candidates, Imran Khan has also held sessions with Barrister Sultan Mahmood, the president of the AJK chapter of the PTI, Sardar Tanveer Ilyas, Azhar Sadiq and Khawaja Farooq. He has not dropped even a slight hint to any one of them that he would be finally picked for the top berth.
It is believed that after weighing a wide cluster of hopefuls, the prime minister will be in a better position to select his AJK premier. But at the same time, a dark horse, who is not being publicly mentioned, may clinch the office. Because of the comfortable majority the PTI has gained in the AJK general elections, Imran Khan is not beholden to any pressure group to accommodate their candidate as he hopes that no elected legislator would defy his decision.
Nisar Ansar, the new entrant in the list of contestants, is an overseas Pakistani and holds British nationality. He contested the election for the first time from Khoi Rutta, Kotli. A special arrangement was made for his election as Chaudhry Rafique Nayyar, advocate, who has been minister more than once, was specifically asked to not file his nomination papers for the same seat with the promise that he would be sponsored for a special seat for technocrats.
A PTI leader said that Nisar Ansar got the ticket on the insistence of Barrister Sultan Mahmood. He said that it was possible that the prime minister called Nisar Ansar to verify certain facts that came to his notice.
The PTI felt that had Rafique Nayyar also been in the electoral field as an independent because of the refusal of its ticket, Nisar Ansar could not make it to the AJKLA and the seat would be taken by a party rival. While his brother, Dr Maqsood Abdali, is an eminent surgeon in Britain, Nisar Ansar has worked as a paramedic there.
The interviews being conducted by Imran Khan apart, he is not expected to make public his choice for the office of the AJK prime minister before the election of his nominees for eight special seats and the speaker and deputy speaker on August 2 and 3 respectively.
The special seats will be taken by the PTI, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) with most of them going to the ruling party, followed by the two other parties. Of the eight seats, five women and one technocrat, an overseas Pakistani and a religious scholar each will be elected.
The three seats of technocrat, expatriate and religious scholar will certainly be won by the PTI nominees given the party’s numerical strength. The women’s seats are likely to be shared by the PPP and PMLN.