Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Elections in Pakistani colony - Azad Kashmir

Elections in Pakistani colony - Azad Kashmir
Dr Shabir Choudhry 28 June 2011

In a parliamentary form of government a party that gets majority forms the next government; and the party leader becomes a Prime Minister. This happens in every democratic and civilised country. However, rules in a Pakistani occupied territory known as Azad Kashmir (independent Kashmir) are different.

PPP emerged as the winner in the elections. It was expected, as always is the case, a ruling party in Islamabad gets the desired results in Azad Kashmir to suits its needs. Barrister Sultan Mehmood, former Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir and a leader of the PPP was interviewed by a Pakistani TV. He happily claimed to have got the majority to form the government. The TV journalist asked him who is going to be the Prime Minister. Barrister Sultan Mehmood with a fake smile on his face said: Zardari Sahib will decide who is going to be the Prime Minister’ (of Azad Kashmir).

People who know how the system works and how posts are awarded, especially the post of the Prime Minister, claim that the man with a big purse will be the Prime Minister. Choudhry Abdul Majid is the President of PPP Azad Kashmir; and should have been asked to form the government. However, that won’t happen, as he is not that rich. Choudhry Yasin and Barrister Sultan Majid are strong candidates for the post of Prime Minister; and insiders claim that Barrister Sultan Mehmood will be the next Prime Minister.

That sums up the level of azadi or independence this territory and its leaders have. Who is Zardari? He is a man accused of being ten per cent because of many corruption scandals, Surrey Palace, Swiss accounts etc. He has imposed a dictatorship in his own party and has virtually ruined it. Many even accuse this man with murder of his wife as well.

Oh yes, he is also a President of Islamic Republic of Pakistan – perhaps, ideal candidate for the post according to political standards of Pakistan. As far as I am concerned, Pakistanis can have a Mafia Don as their President, but what right has he got to impose his will on people of Azad Kashmir.

How unfortunate that in this territory – Azad Kashmir who will be our Assembly Member is decided by ‘Masters’ in Islamabad. These ‘Masters’ are in the form of Asif Ali Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, and other heads of Pakistani parties which dominate the politics of this unfortunate territory. Apart from that, Minister Kashmir Affairs, top four Pakistani officials - Chief Secretary, IG Police, Finance Secretary and Accountant General run and control Azad Kashmir. The final say, as always, is with the secret agencies and Pakistani army General, known as GOC Murree (General Commanding Officer based in Murree).

As if these checks and restrictions were not enough imperialists in Islamabad ensured that genuine voice of people does not emerge strongly to endanger their interests, so they have inserted a clause in Act 74 (under which this territory is run and controlled) that those who do not sign allegiance to Pakistan could not contest any elections or qualify for a public post.

Furthermore, all major decisions, including who will get promotions and what projects should be initiated are taken in meetings of Kashmir Council, which is Chaired by Prime Minister of Pakistan and controlled by the Pakistanis who have numerical majority there as well.

After this brief introduction it is pertinent to discuss the current elections in this independent Kashmir, which does not have any independence apart from the name. It is called Azad Kashmir to fool people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is unfortunate that many people of Azad Kashmir want to live in this fantasy world that they are azad or independent, as this false sense of being azad does not require any action or struggle on their part. Whereas, if they accept that they are not azad then obligation would be to do something about it; and the structure Pakistan has woven around them in the past 63 years is so strong that they cannot get rid off it.

In the present elections, all candidates of Pakistani parties (mainly PPP, N League, MQM, Jamat e Islami) contesting elections in Azad Kashmir were chosen by heads of these Pakistani parties; and the Azad Kashmiri leadership had no role in that – what a democracy.

In my considered view and in view of many other experts, the PPP would get 16-17 seats, N League 14-15 seats and Muslim League 8-9 seats; that no party gets a majority and Pakistani establishment can manoeuvre things as suits them. One day before the elections my friend in Pakistan who has some contacts with those who call shots in matters of Azad Kashmir said: it has been decided that PPP will get 20 -21 seats, N League 8-9 and Muslim Conference get 5-6 seats.

When the election results were out, my prediction was wrong and my friend proved to be more accurate. Now there are allegations that the elections were rigged. But which elections of Azad Kashmir were not rigged? It is interesting that allegations of rigging are coming from leaders of N League and Sardar Atiq Khan who was Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir at the time of elections.

In one TV interview Sardar Atiq Khan said these are the worst elections of Azad Kashmir with rigging, violence and murders (3 deaths and 20 injured, ballot boxes stolen in some places and returning officer kidnapped). He said leaders from Pakistan (PPP and N League leaders) who came to campaign in Azad Kashmir openly violated elections rules. But was he not the man in charge of so called Azad Kashmir? If he knows he is only a puppet and there are others who call the shots then why not acknowledge that.

Let us look how elections are managed in Azad Kashmir. The Assembly has total of 49 seats. Elections are held on 41 seats, 29 seats in Azad Kashmir with 12 seats spread over in Pakistan and reserved for Kashmir migrants. These 12 seats are always in hands of those who control Azad Kashmir and ‘reward’ to the parties of their choice. 5 seats are reserved for women and are shared according to party strength in the Assembly – generally 3 goes to the party with majority of seats. 1 seat for Overseas Kashmiris, sold to the highest bidder, 1 seat for technocrats and 1 seat for religious scholars.

Actual contest takes place on 29 seats in Azad Kashmir. There are many factors which determine the outcome of the elections. By and large, tribal loyalties are still strong and ideology of any kind has very little role in Azad Kashmiri elections. Money, role of the establishment and manpower with influence and guns play an important role in the outcome of elections.

During the election campaign votes are literally bought, sometimes with cash and sometimes with offer of development projects. For example, a village which has no access to a main road and people have to walk with their luggage and other belongings for transport could be persuaded to vote for a particular candidate in return x amount is paid for the construction of the road. Similarly, people vote for a candidate when they get money – during the campaign - to construct pavements or dig wells or other schemes which governments are supposed to do anyway.

My contacts tell me that Benazir Bhutto Income Scheme money was spent generously to buy votes in Azad Kashmir. It is claimed that money which was sent for the earthquake victims of Azad Kashmir was diverted and squandered by people in high positions. This money and some other funds, people claim, are now used to buy votes under the banner of BBIS.

My contacts further tell me that one day before the elections, in targeted seats PPP workers were offering up to 5000 rupees per vote. Some were even providing big sacks of flour and sugar (which is in short supply). In a country where 5000 rupees is a monthly wage for those lucky enough to be employed, it is huge income for a day for a family with 5-6 votes.

This is state of affairs in Azad Kashmir; and this is how politics works in this part of the world. Despite the above situation people in Pakistan and in some parts of Jammu and Kashmir like to call this territory Azad or independent Kashmir – a model state which the Pakistani elite think should encourage the remaining parts of Jammu and Kashmir to join it; and ultimately merge with Islamic Republic of Pakistan – a country ruled by likes of Zardari.

Do they think we are stupid? No Sirs, we don’t want to become a part of this rotten society which is corrupt to the core, which is intolerant, which breeds extremism and violence, which is at a war with itself and which has very bleak future.

Writer is Head Diplomatic Committee of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.Email:drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com
View my blog and web: www.drshabirchoudhry.blogspot.com

1 comment:

Ankur said...

Thanks for your grateful informations, I am working in, ASIAN AFFAIRS MAGAZINE.

Try to post best informations like this always

Pakistan elections: Signs of democracy taking root