Opposition rejects move to delay AJK elections

Published June 1, 2021
The PPP has also opposed the idea of postponing the elections in AJK, saying the Constitution has no such provision. — AFP/File
The PPP has also opposed the idea of postponing the elections in AJK, saying the Constitution has no such provision. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: After the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has also opposed the idea of postponing the elections in AJK, saying the Constitution has no such provision.

Speaking at a news conference a day after the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) suggested postponement of the upcoming AJK elections for two months due to the pandemic, PPP leader and Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani said the AJK Constitution was very clear and the elections could not be delayed, come what may.

Gandapur says govt never requested for postponement

Mr Ghani alleged that the people in AJK were being forced to change their loyalties and join the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). For this purpose, he alleged, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was once again being used as an “arm twisting tool”.

He said all the by-elections in Pakistan were held on time and now postponing elections in Azad Kashmir meant that the PTI was running away from the democratic process of elections.

“Any effort to postpone the elections clearly means that the PTI is weak in Azad Kashmir,” he added.

Accusing the NCOC and the government of wanting to postpone the AJK elections in the garb of Covid-19, the PPP leader said according to the AJK Constitution, postponement was not permissible at all. He said the AJK Assembly’s term was going to complete on July 29 and holding of elections within 60 days after the completion of the term was a constitutional requirement.

Speaking on this occasion, PPP AJK chapter president Chaudhry Latif Akbar asked the AJK Election Commission to immediately issue the schedule of elections.

The NCOC had reportedly written a letter to the chief election commissioner of AJK, stating that due to the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases, the polls should be delayed as large political gatherings could lead to further spread of the potentially deadly virus in the state.

According to the NCOC, one million residents of AJK could be vaccinated by September.

Confirming that the NCOC had recommended a delay in the elections, AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider had on Sunday accused the PTI government of trying to achieve desired results in the polls. He had said that the elections in AJK could only be postponed if there was external aggression.

“Such [NCOC] letters are an insult to the voters of Azad Kashmir. This power is vested in the Legislative Assembly of Azad Kashmir; however, this approach will create political tension in the state,” he had reportedly stated.

Meanwhile, PPP AJK president Latif Akbar and opposition leader in the AJK Assembly Chaudhry Yasin called on PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari at Zardari House on Monday. Former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was also present on the occasion.

They briefed Mr Bhutto-Zardari on the political situation in AJK.

The PPP chairman said the federal government wanted to postpone the AJK elections as it failed to get candidates. He said AJK was a stronghold of the PPP. He directed the party office-bearers to run a full-fledged campaign for free and fair elections in AJK.

Govt’s response

Responding to the opposition’s concerns, Minster for Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Affairs Ali Amin Khan Gandapur categorically rejected the “propaganda” that the federal government had caused delay in the upcoming general elections in AJK.

He said that neither his ministry nor the federal government had made any request regarding postponement of the AJK polls. However, he said the NCOC as an independent institution made its own decisions based on ground realities about the pandemic.

Lauding the NCOC’s role, the minister said it was a reflection of national efforts against the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of blaming others, the opposition should correct its own ranks as the nation was fed up with their family politics, he added. The minister said people had rejected the opposition parties in the 2018 elections and they had also lost polls in Gilgit-Baltistan and now defeat would be their fate in the AJK elections.

He alleged that the PPP did not even have candidates to contest 50 per cent seats in AJK. The PTI, he said, would also form government in AJK with a two-thirds majority as it had demonstrated in the GB elections.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2021

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