Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s ruling party swept local elections in Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PoK), bagging 30 of 41 directly elected seats, with a two-thirds majority to form the new government.
Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) emerged victorious in the assembly elections held on Friday in which a total of 26 political parties and 423 candidates took part.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which won the last polls, could only manage to win two seats while cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tahreek-i-Insaf (PTI) also got as many and Muslim Conference bagged three.
It was expected that there would be a stiff competition between the three mainstream parties – Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), PPP and PTI but the PML-N routed them, stunning the political pundits.
A total of 2.674 million Kashmiris voted to elect members for the PoK Legislative Assembly, which will be the ninth since the parliamentary form of government was introduced in the region in 1975.
While the region is spread over 14,245 square kilometres, the polling process is not restricted to this area and instead stretches to entire Pakistan because members for 12 out of the 41 directly elected seats are elected by 438,884 voters living in various parts of the country.
Some 12 are reserved for refugees from Kashmir in Pakistan.
Overall, the election was held in a peaceful manner under the supervision of the army. Clashes between the PML-N and PTI workers were reported at a couple of polling stations. Some five persons suffered injuries.
Sharif congratulated the people and the elected members.
“Holding the peaceful election in Kashmir (PoK) is a trust of people in democracy. Our government will fully help the newly elected government of Kashmir,” he said.
Sharif said he hoped that the newly-elected members of the Legislative Assembly will “help the freedom struggle of Kashmir”.
“Pakistanis are united to help their Kashmiri brethren in their struggle for freedom,” he added.
Chief Election Commissioner justice Ghulam Mustafa Mughal said “no complaint” of mishap or violence was reported during the polling from anywhere in the valley. He thanked the federal government and Pakistan Army for ensuring the transparent conduct of polls.
The PPP in PoK was launched by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1973 and until December 2010, it faced Muslim Conference (MC) as its arch-opponent, but the situation changed in 2010 when Sharif launched the PML-N in the region.
The 2011 polls were a neck-and-neck fight between the PPP and the PML-N though the MC was also in the field. As PoK rarely goes against the Centre, the PPP secured smooth victory and formed its government. The PML-N also did well by winning 10 seats. The MC, which had ruled for a long time, was reduced to four seats.