MUZAFFARABAD: Amid an air of uncertainty regarding the long overdue local government (LG) polls in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) mainly because of unsureness about the availability of security forces to maintain order, Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas has ruled out postponement or the phased elections and asked the Election Commission to fulfil its constitutional responsibility as per the schedule.
Though the AJK Election Commission has convened a meeting on Monday to thrash out the issue of maintaining peace on the polling day on Nov 27, many people, including several candidates, have been apprehending that the electoral body could defer the activity through some “face saving” solution in the wake of the charged atmosphere in Pakistan that has led to unavailability of security forces.
“Things are not clear as yet which is why both the candidates and the voters are still in incertitude,” commented Khawaja Khalid Mehmood, a trader leader.
“Though the candidates are carrying on their door to door campaign, it all appears lacklustre,” he added.
Candidates fear November 27 elections may be deferred due to unavailability of security forces
A candidate who spoke to Dawn on condition of anonymity said deployment of security forces in and around all polling stations was a must to prevent tensions from snowballing.
On Friday, the Election Commission approved the formation of “coordination and peace committees” for each polling station within two days to ensure violence-free atmosphere on the polling day on Nov 27.
According to a notification, deputy commissioners were assigned the task to constitute these committees, each having five to seven notables of the area concerned, as members.
Simultaneously, the government had also given indications to hire retired army and police personnel to assist regular police personnel in security assignments.
However, the move was immediately rejected by major opposition parties, PML-N and PPP, “for being in contravention of the Constitution and laws”.
“The honourable Supreme Court should take notice of the government’s move to conduct elections without adequate security arrangements through retired police personnel and peace committees. People need LG polls in accordance with the Constitution,” tweeted PML-N regional secretary general Chaudhry Tariq Farooq.
Later, he also issued a letter to party office-bearers and candidates, asking them not to join any committee formed by the AJK government and the commission.
“It’s the responsibility of both the government and the commission to provide security to maintain peace and order. You should [however] continue your campaign and Allah willing, PML-N will sweep the polls,” he added.
An identical ‘notification’ was issued by PPP regional president Chaudhry Mohammad Yasin for his workers on Saturday.
However, while even some cabinet members were sceptical about the polls, the only leader firmly holding his ground was Prime Minister Ilyas.
On Sunday, he asked the chief secretary in writing to “make it known to the Election Commission to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to hold elections on Nov 27 and that the deferment or phased elections were not an option of the government by any means.
“The government has provided all available resources to the Commission for polls on Nov 27. However, since the government of Pakistan has, for some reasons, not so far given any clear policy regarding deployment of security forces, some quarters have started giving the impression that elections may not be held on schedule,” he said.
“Let it be clear that postponement of LG polls at this stage is not the policy of the government. The deferral will be extremely damaging as it will trigger questions on justification of both the Commission and the government. Therefore, at this juncture neither the elections can be postponed nor held in phases,” he added in his letter, a copy of which was available with Dawn.
Earlier in the day, while speaking to media persons in his constituency in Bagh, Mr Ilyas termed the “opponents of polls” the “enemies of people” who would be held accountable.
Shrugging off security concerns, he maintained that AJK people would not allow anyone to disturb the law and order situation during the polls.
He also asked PTI workers not to pay heed to rumours and propaganda being spread through social media.
Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2022
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