MUZAFFARABAD: Sardar Abdul Qayyum Niazi of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) took oath as new Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday.
AJK President Sardar Muhammad Masood Khan administered the oath to him at a ceremony. Later, a smartly turned out contingent of the AJK Police presented him the guard of honour. Earlier, PTIs Abdul Qayyum Niazi had been elected as new Prime Minister (PM) of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
AJK Legislative Assembly had met under the supervision of Speaker Anwar-ul-Haq to elect the PM. During the session, the newly-elected members of the assembly used their voting right to finalize the premier.
PTIs Abdul Qayyum Niazi emerged victorious by grabbing 33 votes while oppositions Chaudhry Latif Akbar faced defeat as he only managed to take 15 votes. Qayyum Niazi was first elected as member of the district council in 1980.
Earlier in the day, Sardar Abdul Qayyum Niazi was elected as AJK’s 13th prime minister by securing 33 votes out of 48 members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) while the opposition’s joint candidate Chauhary Latif Akbar of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) got 15 votes.
He was nominated by Prime Minister Imran Khan as Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate for the top slot, which was announced by Federal Minister Kashmir Ali Amin Gandapur in the parliamentary party’s meeting in morning.
Sardar Abdul Qayyum Niazi was elected from LA-18 Abbaspur – a backward area located along the Line of control (LOC).
He was also elected member in 2006 elections on the Muslim Conference ticket and served as Minister for Food and Forest in the cabinet of then prime minister Sardar Attique Ahmad Khan. His elder brother Sardar Mustafa Khan was also a member from the constituency in 1985.
Winning 33 votes in the newly formed Legislative Assembly of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Abdul Qayyum Niazi became the new prime minister of the autonomous territory on Wednesday, whereas joint opposition’s candidate Chaudhry Latif Akbar garnered 15 votes.
Niazi succeeds PML-N’s Raja Farooq Haider, whose tenure in the AJK PM’s office had ended on July 30. He was administered the oath of his office by AJK President Sardar Masood Khan.
Earlier, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan has nominated a local PTI leader as the next prime minister of AJK.
Niazi “is a dynamic and genuine political activist and his heart beats for the people”, Chaudhry said in a tweet, adding the decision was reached after extensive consultations and reviewing all the proposals.
Azhar Mashwani, an aide to Punjab chief minister on digital media, said Niazi was a member of the AJK Legislative Assembly from Abbaspur Poonch, a border town, a central joint secretary of the party.
Before joining the PTI some two years ago, Niazi was an active member of the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference.
The ruling party has formed a government in the mountainous region following a clear lead in July 25 elections.
According to official results, it clinched 26 general seats of the 53-member House. Three more PTI candidates were elected unopposed on Sunday against five seats reserved for women.
Later on Monday, it secured another three reserved seats, raising its strength to 32 in the House.
Over the weekend, the prime minister interviewed seven candidates for the position. According to a report, he put various questions to them, relating to their future strategy and views on the environment, tourism and regional and international issues.
Initially, Niazi, who won the election from the LA-18 constituency, was not among the leading candidates for the office.
Another report citing sources claimed Imran had expressed displeasure over the fact that he was being contacted by different quarters that were exerting pressure to select particular candidates.
Following the division of the region between Pakistan and India in 1947, Azad Kashmir was governed under the presidential form of government. In 1975, then-prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto introduced the parliamentary system of governance for the region.
This first government headed by Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party was dismissed in 1977 due to the imposition of martial law by then-army chief Gen Ziaul Haq. There were no elections until 1985.
The Muslim-majority region is held by Pakistan and India in parts and claimed both in full. A small sliver of land is also held by China.
Since India revoked autonomy and annexed the part that it is holding into two centrally administered territories on August 5, 2019, elections in Azad Kashmir have attained considerable significance.
Niazi — who won the recent AJK polls from the LA-18 constituency — was not among the leading candidates for the position initially.
Profile: Abdul Qayyum Niazi
Sardar Abdul Qayyum Niazi belongs to the Dulli family of tehsil Abbaspur in AJK’s Poonch district. His village Darra Sher Khan is located in Poonch’s Battal sector, which has seen much destruction in Indian shelling in the past.
His family is settled in Islamabad, where they own businesses.
Niazi is not Abdul Qayyum’s family name, but a pseudonym, and an interesting story is attached to this title.
In the start of 1990s, Abdul Qayyum was a member of the Pooch district council. At the same time, Muslim Conference leader Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan was the prime minister of AJK.
Their first names being the same 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 directions of the prime minister.
In order to settle the problem, ex-prime minister Abdul Qayyum Khan advised Niazi to attach a different last name to his name, and thus he started using Niazi as his last time.
Whilst reading a list of PTI’s nominated candidates last month during a rally in Bagh ahead of the elections, even Prime Minister Imran had expressed surprise at Abdul Qayyum Niazi’s name, saying: “How did a Niazi get here? I am quite surprised. Though we Niazis have spread everywhere.”
Besides serving in the district council, Niazi remained the minister for food security between 2006 and 2008 in the Muslim Conference government, and the forest minister in the second cabinet of Sardar Ateeq from 2010 to 2011.