By Sankar Ray
The Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf won comfortably in the election to the Azad Jammu Kashmir provincial legislature, held on Sunday, by bagging 25 out of 45 seats (election held in 44). However, Pakistan’s prestigious morninger Dawn in an editorial described the election as “one of the ugliest in recent times. The tone and tenor of speeches, the intensity of partisan attacks and the level of personal mudslinging was, to say the least, abominable. All party leaders focused on insulting their rivals instead of talking about issues concerning the AJK electorate”.
The Pakistan Peoples’ Party won 11 seats, followed by six by the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and one each went to the Muslim Conference and Jammu and Kashmir PPP. The performance of PML-N was unexpected as the campaign rallies, addressed by its vice-president Maryam Nawaz Sharif, had enthused swelling crowds. Her energy created an emotional implant into the mindsets of listeners, reminding many, ironically, of the fervent rallies by Benazir Bhutto when she returned to Pakistan as a conquering heroine in 1986.
Opposition parties lambasted the PTI-led federal government, alleging ‘rigging’ in poll. PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb accused PTI of pitting ‘goons’ against PML-N workers in Gujranwala’s Alipur Chatha. The allegation is not without basis as the police ‘arrested those associated with PML-N’and allowed PTI roughs to indulge in ‘hooliganism with complete liberty’,” she quipped. Moreover, PML-N Deputy Secretary General Ata Tarar was arrested. It was strongly condemned by PML-M leader and leader of Opposition in the Pak National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif who tweeted: “This regime has stooped so low as to use police & district administration to target their political opponents”. There is no denying that PTI ‘goons’ had attacked Opposition workers in Gujranwala’s Alipur Chatha area to ‘rig’ the election. PPP candidates too were fired upon, proving the frailty of national election authority.
At least two people were killed and several injured in an armed clash between the workers PTI and PPP at a polling station inKotli district, according to local newscasters. That the violence was not one-sided was evident as the slain activists belonged to the PTI. But reports of serious injury of PML-N and PPP in clashes in the PoK capital Muzaffarabad as also in Mirpur, Bagh, and Rawlakot districts forced suspension of polling for hours together.
PML-N spokesperson cited rigging that allegedly converted the victory of a PML-N into defeat. A PML-N candidate received 14,016 votes against 13,355 votes for by PTI candidate. Later, the PML-N candidate was shown to have lost to the PTI candidate with final tally of 20,467 and 22,096 votes respectively.
The PTI has won by default, not due to performance. The Friday Times editor Najam Sethi rightly predicted that King Khan’s party was ‘the front runner’ but not because of being ‘the most popular party’ but owing to what he called as ‘dependent relationship’. Electors would not be “wasting” their votes on the opposition which would have s no chance of the opposition forming a government in Islamabad. The pity is that PTI government has earned the infamy of mismanagement of the economy having inflicted ‘so much pain on lay Pakistanis that Nawaz Sharif’s era seems like a golden age!, added the acid-tongued TFT editor. About 80 per cent of Kashmiri respondents are reeling under ‘the dismal state of their everyday lives – lack of clean drinking water, electricity load shedding, inflation, inadequate health facilities, unemployment, education, etc, reveals a recently conducted Gall-up poll.
Sadly true, Imran Khan’s rallies lacked enthusiasm, let alone his sidekicks whose speeches during poll campaign in what is ‘Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in the Indian political lexicon were drab and lacklustre. The latter had nothing to boast about, leave alone anything to pledge. The PTI rule at the end of the crucial Sunday cashed in on the opposition parties comprising mostly crooks, thugs, “dakoos”.
Amusingly enough, the Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Fawad Chaudhry, demanded as if to be ensured of being in good humour of PTI supremo — that the PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz put in their papers as their parties were defeated in AJK provincial electoral battle.
But electoral arithmetic brings out things that unnerve the ‘miltablishment’ which calls the shots in Islamabad. Forty-four per cent of 3.2 million voters in PoK did not turn up at polling centres.. One remembers the executed Kashmiri militant Afzal Guru’s words to some detainees at Tihar Jail in Delhi while having been in death row. ‘Pakistan used its network to kill many intellectuals advocating independence’ The militant Kashmiri did not live to read that the Pak premier stated during poll campaign in AJK that he would welcome a sovereign and independent Kashmir- hypocrisy without bounds. (IPA Service)