Pakistan’s ruling party set to form government in Kashmir

by Sami Burgaz
Premier Imran Khan’s party is in clear lead in polls in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan-administered Kashmir (AA) – The party of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan is set to form the government in Pakistan-administered Kashmir following a clear lead in Sunday’s elections.

Out of the five seats’ unofficial results announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan-administered Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK), the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has already won four seats, while it enjoys a clear lead in another 20 constituencies.

Over half of the total 3.2 million voters cast their ballots to elect the 53-member AJK assembly for a five-year term, according to election authorities.

The vote was held for 45 general seats, while the remaining eight will be divided among the political parties on the basis of their victory ratio on general seats.

A party requires 27 seats to form the government with a simple majority.

According to the current trajectory, PTI is likely to cross the 30-mark.

As the vote count continues, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) of three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of slain premier Benazir Bhutto are locked in a close contest for the second position.

Unofficial results suggest that the PPP and the Nawaz are leading on five and four seats, respectively.

Traditionally, the party ruling Islamabad has won elections in AJK since 1975, with analysts foreseeing no change in this decades-long trend.

Violence, rigging allegations

Earlier, the army was called in following clashes between rival political activists in several parts of the valley and in Pakistan as voting to elect the new state assembly was suspended at dozens of polling stations for hours.

At least two people were killed and several injured in an armed clash between the activists of PTI and PPP at a polling station in the Kotli district, according to Express News, a local broadcaster.

Those killed are said to be employed by PTI.

Clashes between the rival parties were also reported from several polling stations in the capital Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Bagh, and Rawlakot districts, suspending voting for hours.

Footage aired on Express News showed charged activists exchanging blows.

Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Abdul Rasheed Salehria, told reporters that army troops were sent to the violence-hit areas to restore law and order.

Opposition parties, mainly the PPP and Nawaz, accused the Election Commission and the administration of not taking action against “rigging” in the PTI’s favor.

The PTI denied the charge and accused the opposition parties of attacking its workers and polling agents.

More than 700 candidates from 32 political and religious parties are contesting for 45 general seats. Out of the eight reserved seats, five are for women and three, one each, for religious scholars, technocrats, and overseas Kashmiris. The members for these seats are nominated after the elections.

Out of 45 general seats, 12 are reserved for Kashmiri refugees who had migrated from Indian-administered Kashmir in 1947 and 1965 and are settled in various parts of Pakistan. Therefore, in the 10 districts of AJK, elections are taking place for 33 seats only.

Out of 700 candidates, only 20 women candidates are contesting general seats.

Parliamentary system of governance

Following the division of Jammu and Kashmir into Pakistani and Indian-controlled parts in 1947, the AJK 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 PPP was dismissed in 1977 due to the imposition of martial law in Pakistan by then-Army Chief Gen. Zia-ul-Haq. There were no elections until 1985.

The Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir 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 divided the part that it is holding into two centrally administered territories on Aug. 5, 2019, elections in this part of the region, administered by Pakistan, have attained considerable significance.​​​​​​​


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