Even as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is locked in a one-upmanship race with the Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif on cornering India over violence in the Srinagar valley, Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) is getting ready for army - supervised assembly elections under the shadow of violence and arson. The field is open only to parties that have accepted accession of PoK with Pakistan.
More than 17,000 army personnel and 15,200 paramilitary personal are already on “election” duty, prompting Pakistan People’s Party to cry foul. In fact, the PPP has already hit the streets saying that the Sharifs are rigging the one day- ballot on July 21.
Elections in PoK are generally a mere formality with the King’s party in the saddle in Islamabad securing the mandate.
Pakistan Muslim League -N (PML-N) is the front runner this time around though Rawalpindi’s Team B (Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, PTI) is giving both PML-N and PTI a run for their money.
Repeated clashes between PML-N and PPP have claimed several lives. Minister for electricity Faisal Mumtaz Rathore was attacked during a campaign meeting. And at an Eid Milan party, activists of both parties opened indiscriminate fire, and indulged in acts of arson. Scores of people including a former minister were injured.
As many as 427 candidates are in the race for the 41-elected seats in the 49-member PoK assembly, which has very limited powers. Of them, 328 are contesting in the 29 constituencies in PoK and 99 will be competing for 12 Kashmiri refugee constituencies spread across Pakistan. An estimated 21.81 lakh voters will decide their political fortunes.
While the PPP is going alone, the PML-N has entered into an alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jammu Kashmir People’s Party (JKPP). The Sharifs party tried to woo the Muslim conference (MC) chief, Sardar Attique but without success. The big brother wanted the Sardar to vacate his party’ strong holds for PML-N. This was not acceptable to the MC supremo, and he closed ranks with Imran Khan’s party. The new combine has fielded joint candidates for seven seats.