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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2614

Elections in POK a farce

By Sarla Handoo - Syndicate Features

It seems Pakistan is bent upon not learning its lessons from experience. It lost one wing of the country, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), because it refused to accept the verdict of the elections in 1971. It did so because leadership in West Pakistan did not want a person from the Eastern wing, Sheikh Mujeebur Rehman, to become the Prime Minister of the country. The result was uprising in Dhaka followed by a war, humiliating surrender of its troops and ultimately dismemberment of the country. Any other nation faced with such a gory history would never do again what Pakistan has been doing with so called elections in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The elections held on the 11th July were nothing but a farce, a mockery and a drama.

Let us begin from the beginning. The house has 49 seats. But direct election is held for only 41 seats. The remaining 8 seats are filed through voting by those already elected to the house. Five of these seats are earmarked for women and one each for technocrats, religious scholars and overseas Kashmiris. The provision has been there to give a leg space to the ruling party to manipulate the numbers in the race for power. In other words, these eight are bonus seats for the asking. There is no such provision the world over, to ask the newly elected members of a house to elect additional members to the same house.

As if this is not enough, people of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir can elect only 29 lawmakers, and not all the 41 law makers. This is because 12 seats are earmarked for Kashmiris who had migrated from POK to other parts of Pakistan between 1947 and 1971. How they vote and where they vote to elect their representatives is a mystery. Even the president of POK Sardar Muhammad Anwar Khan has expressed reservations on the procedure adopted for election to these 12 seats.

When it came to filing nomination papers, over a hundred from the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and All Parties National Alliance (APNA) were rejected because they refused to sign the declaration that POK is a part of Pakistan. The constitution of POK has a clause, according to which, the contesting candidates have to sign a declaration that “I solemnly declare that I believe in the ideology of Pakistan, the ideology of states accession to Pakistan and the integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan”. The refusal to sign the declaration by the candidates is nothing new. JKLF leaders have been refusing to oblige the Pak masters and sign the declaration on the dotted line in the past. They did so this time around as well.

As the uproar followed Pakistan Government tried to wash off its hands by saying that the declaration is a part of POK constitution and not that of Pakistan. But that did not cut any ice as POK is ruled directly from Islamabad by the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs through a Chief Advisor, an officer of the rank of a Joint Secretary.

In such a situation the poll outcome is predictable. The pro- Pak ruling Muslim Conference party won 20 of the 41 seats. It pocketed seven of the eight reserved seats subsequently and got two-thirds majority to form the government. No wonder the JKLF and the APNA observed July 11, the Election Day, as a black day.

The position in Gilgit and Baltistan is worse. They are part of Jammu and Kashmir but have been separated from POK and given a nomenclature of Northern Areas to be ruled directly by Pakistan through the Northern Areas Council. The people of these areas have not seen an election for the last 60 years.

POK has the trappings of a country as it has a President, a Prime Minister and a legislature but in reality it is not even a province. In any case both the President and the Prime Minister have only the titular heads after the Karachi Agreement of 1949 between Pakistan, POK and the Muslim League handed over real power to Pakistan; only residual powers are left with POK government.

In nutshell no elections were held in POK till 1960. In the next fifteen years till 1975 only indirect elections were held. Afterwards it was Marshall law all over.

All this makes a mockery of General Musharraf’s exhortations to India for self- rule in Jammu and Kashmir.

India responded appropriately at the very beginning, by saying that the POK elections would be a replay of previous exercise. It said disqualification of candidates refusing to accept POK’s accession to Pakistan was glaring in view of Pakistan’s self governance proposal. It expressed surprise at the harassment of visitors by Pakistani intelligence authorities and refusal to give travel permits as pointed out by the members from Gilgit and Baltistan who had come to India two months ago. “Pakistan wants free movement of people across the line of control. Apparently it wants it selectively” is what the Indian spokesman said.

Surprisingly, the planned truck service across the line of control between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad on July 19 was put on hold by Pak authorities saying they were pre-occupied with the POK elections. The trade delegations have yet to visit each other’s area to work out the details.

The world is aware of the history of Pakistan as a country of governed by its army, sometimes from the barracks and more of than not from the Presidential Palace. General Musharraf is trying to give an impression as if his is a democratic government. He cannot hoodwink the world. He will earn that right to be the voice of his people only if he gets elected through a fair and transparent election in his country, and allows similar elections in POK. So far, there is no trace of that happening.

- Syndicate Features -

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