Despite Covid-19 AJK elections must be held on time

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 03:02 PM, 2 Jun, 2021
Despite Covid-19 AJK elections must be held on time
Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly.

The incumbent AJK Legislative Assembly’s five-year term is due to complete on July 29, and, under the Constitution, new elections should be held 60 days before that day.

However, a recommendation sent by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) to the AJK Election Commission for a two-month delay in meeting this constitutional requirement has triggered a new controversy about the matter.  

The NCOC wants a postponement of the ballot till September in view of the surging pandemic. However, all major political parties in AJK, including the ruling PML-N and opposition PPP and Jamaat-i-Islami have rejected any proposal for postponement of lections. 

The PTI, which is also an opposition party in AJK and has already issued tickets to 34 candidates with 11 others to be made public subsequently, doesn’t own the poll delaying idea forwarded by the NCOC. 

After the conflicting views coming from the opposition parties and the PTI it is not yet clear whether the elections would be held on time or postponed for some time on any pretext. (Some leaders insist that the constitutional obligation cannot be delayed unless the basic law is amended). 

Federal Minister for Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan Affairs Ali Amin Khan Gandapur has been quoted as rejecting the propaganda that federal government is planning to delay the AJK general elections.  

He said neither his ministry nor the federal government had made any request for delaying the AJK polls. 

On the other hand, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari says the PTI-led federal government wants to postpone AJK elections as it has failed to get candidates for elections.”  

This he said at a meeting with President PPP Azad Jammu and Kashmir Chaudhry Latif Akbar and opposition leader of AJK Assembly Chaudhry Yasin who called on him at Zardari House, Islamabad. 

The PPP has issued tickets to 31 candidates for AJK elections.  

Former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf says the government wants to delay the elections in AJK to avoid the defeat there.  

Ridiculing the Covid-19 excuse to seek delay in meeting the constitutional requirement, Raja Pervez Ashraf said the elections in AJK in 2006 had been held even after the deadly earthquake there.  

To reinforce his argument about elections on time, he said: “The elections were held throughout the world, even in the United States, despite the Covid-19.”  

The PML-N also sees little justification for delaying the polls for Covid-19. 

Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said while talking to media persons that the NCOC had nothing to do with the AJK elections.  

"We reject the NCOC letter and it should be withdrawn," he said. 

Political observers are of the opinion that the AJK elections should be held on time, no matter what the situation. If by-elections on a number of seats in the four provinces can be held despite Covid-19, and the PTI government proudly claims to have dealt with the pandemic better compared to any other country in the world, there will be no justification to delay the constitutional process on this pretext in AJK. 

The situation in AJK is being monitored by the world and any deviation from Constitution will provide the enemy India with a strong basis for anti-Pakistan propaganda. 

India had drastically changed the situation in occupied Kashmir by striking down Article 370 of its Constitution, as a result of which the region lost its special status. Since then it has been taking various steps to change the demographic composition of occupied Kashmir, a step opposed recently by even the UN General Assembly president during his visit to Islamabad. 

Despite Covid-19, holding of elections in AJK will send a very positive signal to the world community. Nobody will have any basis to draw a parallel between the situation in AJK and IIOJK.  

The PTI government should honour its obligations towards the AJK elections, leaving it to people what precautionary measures they adopt against the deadly contagion.  When people of Kashmir are not afraid of the pandemic, the government should not provide its rivals, at home and abroad, with any opportunity to curse it.