AJK Elections In 2006 To Derail Conventional Kashmir Politics
4 July 2005
Islamabad: The general election to elect a 41-seat AJK Assembly House will be held in May-June, 2006 simultaneously in Azad Kashmir and in J&K constituencies in Pakistan cities, Pakistan Observer learnt here on Monday. The AJK electoral territory comprises 29 directly elected members (recent addition of one seat for Muzaffarabad city), while both the Kashmir and Jammu provinces are represented in the Muzaffarabad Assembly through the 12 members from refugees of these provinces settled in various cities-suburbs in Pakistan. Apart from this strength of 41-directly elected members, there are five female seats while special groups namely the overseas Kashmiris, the mushaikh-ulema and technocrats are allotted one seat each group in the House of total 49 members. The female and special groups members are indirectly elected by the 41-directly elected members of the Assembly. Mr Justice Riaz Akhtar Choudhry, Chief Justice of the AJK High Court has now been appointed as the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of AJK, a position vacant since the resignation by the Acting Chief Election Commissioner Mr Justice Manzurul Hassan Gillani, judge Supreme Court of AJK. There has been running a lengthy controversy as to under which electoral lists, old or new ones, the general elections in the State could be conducted. The outgoing Acting Chief Election Commissioner favoured preparation of new electoral lists while the AJK Assembly had adopted a joint resolution recommending utilisation of old lists, however with updations. The storm of this controversy had not subsided yet, when the Acting CEC had tendered his resignation from this office which was later on accepted. Under the circumstances it seems that the new CEC will have to deliver his final decision in the matter which is obviously of the sensitive nature amidst mutually vying political interests in the State. The major electoral contenders in the 2006 AJK polls fight will be the ruling All J&K Muslim Conference and its toughest challenger the Pakistan People's Party-AJK as in terms of political wrestling bouts the deadline of May-June 2006 is not that far off. The other political sectors lack strength to take on these two rivals in the ring. The religious politics in AJK has gone too weak with the growing awareness among the youth about the urgent needs of their orientation towards modernity and benefit-bringing technology. Moreover the tough trials of the present times vis-à-vis general unemployment-under-employment-misadjustments have also taken the wind out of the sails of oft repeated 'ideology' balloon. As such the 'ideologues' or the religious politics will leave little impact or contribution to the 2006 AJK polls. Allied to it is the performance of the religious politics in Pakistan which has driven the urban people to a point of disenchantment and disgust, affecting also the general thinking and conscience of the people in AJK as well, analysts predicted. An analyst suggested that if this time the JKLF (Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front) fields its candidates State- wide and constituency-wide in Pakistan cities-villages having J&K voters, it (JKLF) will be a strength to be reckoned with, affecting almost the entire polls scenario. The Kashmir options formula, if at all it is a formula to be called, indirectly refurbishes this political platform, although the JKLF leaders oppose any move against the geographic entity of the State of J&K.