MUZAFFARABAD: A senior leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Sunday repented his party’s decision in April last year to cast its vote in favour of the sitting Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) prime minister Chaudhry Anwarul Haq and said an early exit from the coalition government could help the party make good of the damage to its popularity among the masses.

“It was a wrong decision… an absolutely wrong decision, consequences of which our party has endured ever since… The sooner this decision is reversed, the better it will be in the larger interest of the party,” said PML-N’s central vice president and former AJK prime minister Raja Farooq Haider in a conversation with Dawn.

“As a party, PML-N has not gained from being part of this government for the past 11 months. Rather we have lost many things. Therefore, it’s in our benefit to quit this setup without further ado,” he said, expressing the hope that party’s regional president Shah Ghulam Qadir would also come out in the open on this issue.

Mr Haider did not agree with an assumption that quitting the coalition government could go to the benefit of the PPP, the other coalition partner.

“This is a lame excuse… If we have to save our party and keep our politics alive, we have to bid adieu to this government. The sooner the better,” he reiterated.

He recalled that the AJK chapters of PML-N and PPP had voted for Mr Haq at the bidding of their central leadership.

“But under a design, this imposed government instantly rendered the political parties irrelevant to the system. For some time, it was dubbed as the government of the MLAs but that’s not true either,” he said, adding that the “humiliation and helplessness” being experienced by the ministers themselves was also unprecedented in the territory’s political history.

Though apparently Mr Haider’s blunt remarks came amidst Mr Haq led government’s alleged indifference to the ongoing protest demonstrations by serving and former permanent, ad-hoc and contingent paid employees of different departments, it was not the first time he had publicly expressed his reservations about his party’s inclusion in the coalition government.

“I have no personal enmity with the prime minister. But the apathetic attitude of his government towards the striking employees is unacceptable. This is the blessed month of Ramazan but Mr Haq-led government is inviting imprecations from the affected people rather than seeking the blessings of Allah, the Almighty,” he said.

Asserting that he was the last ruler who assumed the office by the will of the people and afterwards everyone was imposed, Mr Haider went on to claim that another [political] change was also expected to take place in Azad Kashmir.

He also urged the federal government not to remain oblivious to the chaotic situation in the liberated territory and carry out its “constitutional responsibilities” to address it.

“The government of Pakistan should also pay attention to Azad Kashmir and fulfill its constitutional obligations to end the prevailing unrest, chaos and instability here. If correct decisions are not taken in time, the redress will be impossible… The repercussions of the present situation will not be good for anyone,” the former AJK prime minister said.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2024

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