Generally, elections in AJK seems easy to anticipate since the political party at the helm of affairs in Islamabad usually topped in Muzaffarabad as well. Initially it appeared that most of the Pakistan’s political leaders failed to understand the significance of the elections in Azad Jammu and Kashmir in the backdrop of India’s actions of abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019.
As the results are evident now. PTI is all set to form the next government in Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK). The contest this time was though tighter than usual and held in an extremely electric atmosphere mainly because of the direct involvement of Prime Minister Khan, Maryam Nawaz of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in the election rallies. According to Election commission of AJK, around 3.2 million people were enumerated to vote to elect the 53-member AJK assembly for a five-year term.
There was a direct election on 45 general seats, while the remaining seats including eight reserved for women and one each for the religious scholar, one for technocrat, and for Kashmiris settled abroad will be allocated among the political parties based on their success ratio on general seats. The PTI has won at least 25 out of the assembly’s 45 general seats, while the PPP and the PML-N have won 11 and 6 seats correspondingly. Two state-based parties -All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference (AJKMC) and Jammu Kashmir Peoples Party (JKPP) also managed to secure one seat each, according to official results.
Chief Election Commissioner Azad Kashmir Abdul Rashid Suhlaria announced the results during press conference in Muzaffarabad. He revealed that the elections were held in a clean and transparent way and the turnout was 62%, adding that to date, no written grievance has been lodged regarding rigging. In the previous polls held in July 2016, the PML-N won the election in AJK with a two-thirds majority and consequently Raja Farooq Haider became prime minister of AJK. Here it is pertinent to mention that out of the 45 general seats, 33 are positioned in AJK. However, there are 12 seats reserved for around 430,456 Kashmiri refugees who lives in Pakistan.
These constituencies in Pakistan are distributed in all four provinces. The foremost resolve to assign the seats was to provide representation to the refugees who migrated from Indian-occupied Kashmir during 1947 and 1965 and on other occasions. In 2018, New electoral laws were announced through an amendment in AJK’s constitution. As per the new law, only those political parties supporting Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan are permitted to participate in the elections.
Beside this, under the new law, a candidate, while submitting nomination papers during the elections, is required to sign an affidavit admitting that he or she favours “Pakistan’s ideology, the ideology of annexation of disputed Kashmir region with Pakistan and the integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan.” Presently, under the new electoral rules, 32 political and religious parties are registered. They included Pakistan’s main political parties as well as local political parties of AJK.
Biradari and patronage networks arbitrates constituency-level politics in AJK, and this mainly aids the benefits of the political elite, which is affluent, dynastic and patriarchal. From 1947 to 1952, a single party dominated AJK’s politics. That political party was Muslim Conference. From 1952 to 1970, there was a non-participatory bureaucratically controlled system in AJK. From 1970s onwards, there started a multi-party system. There are many issues faced by the youth of AJK.
Unemployment is one of them. The new government need to address this issue. One of the relative advantages of AJK is its natural and scenic landscapes. A diverse range of natural forests covers more than 40 percent of AJK’s area. PM Imran khan is already focusing on enhancing tourism activities in Pakistan, therefore it can be anticipated that PTI’s nominated PM in AJK will also emulate the same policy. Last but not the least, Kashmir dispute and situation in the Indian-occupied Kashmir should remain the points of concern for the ruling party.