ISLAMABAD: The country’s two major opposition parties — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — have once again warned the federal government led by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) against making any effort to interfere in the July 25 elections for the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Legislative Assembly and complained about the alleged failure of the region’s election commission in properly implementing the code of conduct.

The warning from the two parties came at the conclusion of the election campaign on Friday.

In a statement, PML-N’s information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said the party had made special arrangements to “monitor” the elections in AJK to foil any attempt to “steal the votes”. She said the party had chalked out a strategy to monitor the polling process and constituted teams of “observers” for this purpose.

She said the party’s leaders and workers had been asked to inform the Central Monitoring Cell from their respective areas about the polling day activities.

Continued presence of Gandapur in region has already tarnished the electoral exercise: senator

She said the party had also constituted legal teams to take up matters in case of any irregularity or rigging. She said a special monitoring cell had been set up to monitor the polling day exercise and it would remain functional for 24 hours.

Ms Aurangzeb said the AJK people would not let anyone repeat the Daska incident and would not allow anyone to “kidnap” the election commission officials. She said the people of AJK would not only use their right to vote, but would also protect their votes.

“It will be better for [Prime Minister] Imran Khan and his stooges to refrain from stealing votes through fascism and dictatorial acts,” she warned.

In a separate statement, PPP vice-president and Senator Sherry Rehman expressed concerns over the continued presence of federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs Ali Amin Gandapur in AJK despite clear expulsion orders issued by the region’s election commission.

Ms Rehman alleged that the federal minister was openly flouting the code of conduct and “insulting” the election commission and the electoral process. She said the minister should have left AJK soon after the election commission’s order, but regretted that he was present in all the public meetings held in connection with the election campaign.

The PPP senator said the continued presence of the federal minister in AJK, who had been barred from campaigning by the commission for using un-parliamentary and abusive language, had badly tarnished the entire election process. “Is this the standard of elections in new Pakistan?” she asked, while questioning the silence of Prime Minister Imran Khan over the issue.

Accusing the PTI-led federal government of making the AJK elections controversial, she said the July 25 elections in AJK would be a test case for the federal government for the next general elections to be held in the country.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2021

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