By Fahad Choudhary
The election campaign in AJK has proved to be the ugliest campaign in recent times with leaders focused on insulting their rivals instead of talking about issues concerning the electorate.
These leaders brought their personal hatred and mutual loathing into the elections arena. They had no qualms about relegating the issues of into the background and highlighting instead what they considered the most damaging aspects of their rivals’ politics, Pakistani media openly criticised the bad attitude of these politicians.
This significantly reduced the level of elections to the street brawl, cabinet minister’s undesirable and sexist remarks were an addendum to the situation when Pakistan Muslim League (N) leaders peddled anti-semitic language to mock their opponents.
Pakistan Muslim League (N) and Pakistan Peoples Party have both pointed to what they call rigging in various forms even though the PPP has bagged a respectable number of seats, Dawn reported.
The AJK elections have once again shown that Pakistan’s electoral system is incapable of conducting elections that could be accepted by the people.
The election commission in AJK has failed to enforce transparency and credibility, the police and local administration for failing to secure life and property, and the political parties for not acknowledging the weakness of the system and showing the will and capacity to reform it, Dawn reported.
Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) won 25 of 45 seats in the PoK legislative assembly elections marred by deadly violence.
An Open revolt was witnessed in AJK as thousands of demonstrators hit the streets to protest against the Pakistan army after reports of election manipulation.
Earlier, Prime Minister of AJK Raja Farooq Haider in a statement said: “The assembly elections were nothing but a farce exercise to hoodwink the people.”
People from AJK have started a sustained campaign against the Islamabad government’s alleged atrocities in AJK and intention to merge it with the country. It can create problems for Pakistan that has been criticising its neighbour India for “suppression of human rights” in the part of Kashmir under the latter’s jurisdiction.
Accession of the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir to India after the partition was a big blow to the very idea upon which Pakistan was founded—a Muslim homeland in the Indian subcontinent. However, the Muslim dominated Jammu & Kashmir became a part of India officially, though Pakistan managed to take control of a part of the region through invasion in 1947-48. Since then, Pakistan has been raking up different issues regarding Kashmir on the international platform by blaming India for human rights abuses. However, now Pakistan is in a fix after the Kashmiris living in Pakistan- administered Kashmir have charged the Islamabad government of human rights violations and protested against assimilation with general population of the country.
Recently, federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs Ali Amin Gandapur reportedly ordered his guards to open fire when Kashmiris held protests. Videos of firing went viral on social media. Subsequently, Election Commission asked the minister to leave Kashmir and ordered him not to participate in electoral campaigning. The decision was taken since Imran Khan’s minister was creating law and order problems, which also sparked fears of the loss of human lives.
Now the UKPNP has urged the international community to pressurise Islamabad to allow free and fair elections in the Pakistan- administered Kashmir by repealing draconian laws and revoking bans on pro-Kashmir political parties. Stressing Kashmiris never accepted the “slavery” of Pakistan, Kashmiri leaders have demanded “equal and free” status. Raja Farooq Haider, Prime Minister of AJK has threatened sit-in
protests in Islamabad saying Imran Khan and his ministers directly meddled in the elections in the region. “Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet members are brazenly desecrating and contravening the Constitution. Do they consider us (Kashmiris) slaves who can be bought with money?” Haider said; “He (Imran) has also been allowing him (Gandapur) to deliver speeches in what amounts to a serious disgrace to the people and institutions of Kashmir,”
A little earlier, some Kashmiri organisations had expressed concerns over human rights violations in Pakistan- administered Kashmir and sought a United Nations-led fact-finding team to investigate it. The UKPNP said Pakistan not just obstructed development in the region but directing a crushing campaign of political repression against Kashmiris as well. “UKPNP is opposing Pakistani policy to use religion as weapon and terrorism as a foreign policy tool and our region as a launching pad and training camp to press the secular, democratic and progressive
voices of the entire region,” UKPNP wrote in a letter to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Pakistan has been demanding inquiries into alleged abuses in the India-administered Jammu and Kashmir. However, it turned a blind eye when the OHCHR came up with a report detailing human rights violations across the Kashmir valley a few years ago. Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, the founder of UKPNP, said Kashmiris in Pakistan lived under harassment and intimidation. “Pakistan imposed draconian laws which barred all political pay who do not subscribed two nation theory and state accession with Pakistan,” he said.
In July 2021, Kashmiris held protests outside the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) office in Geneva to denounce the use of force by the Pakistani government and Army in the Pakistan Administered Kashmir as well as Gilgit- Baltistan. “The demonstration was held to express solidarity with the independent judges, the lawyers and the journalists who are constantly under attack by Pakistan. It was also to urge the United Nations Human Rights Council to urge that it should
intervene and pressurize Pakistan to change the undemocratic means to suppress the civil society,” Shaukat Ali said.
Kashmiri people have charged the Islamabad government with allowing security forces, radical and banned terrorist groups to interfere in their affairs as well as the governance in the region, alleged said Nasir Aziz Khan, central spokesperson of UKPNP. “The main purpose is to install handpicked people to merge our areas into Pakistan without any obstacle. Islamabad a self-proclaimed advocate and champion of the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people has imposed new restrictions on Kashmiri nationalist groups and parties,” Khan said.