PROFILE: How new AJK PM became Niazi

Published August 5, 2021
Sardar Abdul Qayyum Niazi
Sardar Abdul Qayyum Niazi

MUZFFARABAD: Sardar Abdul Qayyum Niazi, who was sworn in as the 13th prime minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday, had a penchant for politics from adolescence but hardly had dreamed of becoming premier after securing his second victory in four elections to the region’s Legislative Assembly.

Mr Niazi, one among the 13 children of food inspector Fazal Dad from three wives, was born in Darra Sher Khan, a village in Battal sector.

He contested his first election in 1982, at the age of 23, and became the youngest district councilor in his Poonch district.

His family was associated with the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference (MC), a longtime ruling party on this side of the Line of Control. Mr Niazi himself contested the first election to the assembly in 2001 as an independent candidate after the MC granted its ticket to someone else. He could not succeed then, but five years later he emerged victorious on an MC ticket from the same constituency and held the ministerial berths in Sardar Attique-led government.

In 2011, the violent polling in his constituency saw local courts and around 16,000 votes torched due to which his rival was declared successful who emerged “victorious” again in 2016 after “85 per cent polling” was shown to have been held in highly vulnerable areas along the LoC.

All past five years, Mr Niazi ran from pillar to post for nullification of result and subsequent biometric recounting but to no avail. Unhappy with his [MC] party for not supporting him in his endeavours for recounting, he bid farewell to it in December 2018 and joined Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) “after being fascinated by the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan,” says his longtime associate Mazhar Chughtai, a contractor by profession.

Interestingly, the new AJK premier belongs to the Dulli sub-caste of Mughals and Niazi is not his surname but pseudonym. People say he chose this title in the early 1990s when he was a member of the district council.

At that time, MC leader Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan was the AJK premier. Being the namesake, it would often create confusion between their statements and official orders, and the Poonch administration would sometimes implement the district council member’s orders mistaking them for the directives of the prime minister.

In order to settle the problem, the then PM Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan advised Mr Qayyum to attach a different title to his name, and thus he started using Niazi as his last name.

At an election rally in Bagh on July 17, when Prime Minister Imran Khan was reading a list of PTI’s nominated candidates from Poonch division, he had expressed surprise at Mr Niazi’s name, saying: “How did a Niazi get here? I am quite surprised. Though we Niazis have spread everywhere.”

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2021

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