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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 324, 10 May 2022

Political Instability in “Azad Jammu and Kashmir”



The “AJK” politics continues to remain a playground for Islamabad

Abigail Miriam Fernandez

In April 2022, political instability gripped “Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK)” as Prime Minister Abdul Qayyum Niazi resigned after 25 Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) members filed a no-confidence motion against him. During a press conference, he claimed, “I am a democratic person and will always remain with Imran Khan. I took my democratic decision and resigned in a dignified manner.” Further, he rejected the allegations levelled against him as “baseless.” His resignation came just before the “AJK” Legislative Assembly session was called for voting on the resolution.
 
AJK Prime Minister: From Abdul Qayyum Niazi to Sardar Tanveer Ilyas
On 14 April, members from the ruling PTI in “AJK” had filed a no-confidence motion against Niazi, under Article 18 of the “AJK” constitution. The motion claimed that Niazi had lost the confidence of the parliamentary party due to the non-implementation of the party manifesto together with mismanagement, nepotism, breach of merit, and failure to highlight the Kashmir issue. The PTI MLAs proposed its regional chapter’s president Sardar Tanveer Ilyas for the prime minister’s slot.
 
Meanwhile, as the PTI tried to get Ilyas elected as the new prime minister, the opposition members filed a petition in the high court. They pleaded that the speaker and other respondents should be restrained from initiating any proceedings of the assembly to hold the election to the office of prime minister after the latter called for the suspension of Rule 15 (1) of the Rules of Procedure. The rule stipulates a gap of two days between the filing of the nomination papers and voting for the prime minister’s election. Following this, the high court put the proceedings of the Legislative Assembly on hold until 18 April.
 
On 18 April, Sardar Tanveer Ilyas was elected the 14th prime minister of “AJK,” however, the combined opposition comprises 12 legislators of PPP and seven of the PML-N boycotted the vote. Initially, the opposition had nominated PPP’s regional president Chaudhry Mohammad Yasin as their candidate, however, on 17 April they announced that it was pulling out of the contest.
 
The Big Picture in AJK: The Islamabad factor
The recent set of events in the region reflects the larger politics at play. Over the recent years, politics in “AJK” has been dominated by national parties to extend their bases due to the lack of regional parties. These two reasons along with the absence of local government are the main reasons for political instability in the region.
 
The history of elections in the region, since 1975, highlights that parties ruling Islamabad, or its allies have won the elections in the region. This trend is due to the dependence on Islamabad for resources and the ruling party's ability to provide resources.

However, over the recent years, larger political parties such as the PTI, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have engaged directly in the local politics. Each party has successfully established their regional chapters with each giving stiff competition to the other. Additionally, these political parties use the rallying in “AJK” as a critical test of their popularity and as a means of boosting their standing in national politics.

Earlier, the PPP and PML-N have successfully formed the government in AJK, however, it was the first time that the PTI was ruling the region. The link between Islamabad and Muzaffarabad is evident in the region's 53-member Legislative Assembly in which the PTI holds 32, PPP has 12, PML-N with seven, Jammu Kashmir Peoples Party (JKPP) and All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference (MC) holding one seat each. Thus, it reveals the assumption that parties ruling Islamabad, or its allies have won the elections in the region.

Government in AJK Year and Prime Minister Government in Islamabad
Pakistan Peoples Party 1975-1977
Abdul Hamid Khan
Pakistan Peoples Party
All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference 1985-1990
Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan
Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League (N)
All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference 1990-1991
Raja Mummtaz Hussain Rathore
Pakistan Muslim League (N)
All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference 1991-1996
Muhammad Abdul Qayyum Khan
Pakistan Peoples Party
Pakistan Peoples Party 1996-2001
Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry
Pakistan Peoples Party
Pakistan Muslim League (N)
Military Rule
All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference 2001-2006
Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan
Military Rule
 
All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference 2006-2009
Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan
Military Rule
 
Pakistan Peoples Party 2009
Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan
Pakistan Peoples Party
 
Pakistan Muslim League (N)
 
2009-2010
Raja Farooq Haider
Pakistan Peoples Party
 
All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference 2010-2011
Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan
Pakistan Peoples Party
 
Pakistan Peoples Party 2011-2016
Chaudhry Abdul Majid
Pakistan Muslim League (N)
Pakistan Muslim League (N) 2016-2021
Raja Farooq Haider
Pakistan Muslim League (N)
Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf 2021-2022
Abdul Qayyum Khan Niazi
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf

Weakness of AJK’s regional Parties
While Islamabad-based parties made electoral inroads in “AJK,” regional parties and other pro-independence political groups have significantly become less prominent. The All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, the oldest and most important political party initially an ally of the PML-N, lost its prominence after the latter decided to create its own chapter in the region. Similarly, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation League (JKLL), another state-based party, initially saw success after it was able to defeat the MC, however, the party gradually became weaker and is now inactive in the region’s politics. Likewise, the JKPP has not been able to succeed in the region’s electoral politics.
 
The reasons why these regional parties have become less prominent largely stem from two changes that were introduced in the region. First, a recent change where news electoral laws were introduced through an amendment in AJK’s constitution in 2018. Through this amendment, only political parties favouring Kashmir's accession to Pakistan were allowed to take part in the polls. This restricted pro-independence Kashmiri groups from registering with the region’s election commission and taking part in the polls. Second, is the very introduction of Pakistani political parties in “AJK.” In 1974, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto introduced the PPP in the region and successfully established power in AJK in the first elections held under the Interim Constitution. This move has been criticised as it reduced the significance of regional parties.
 
Absence of Local government
Local government remains dysfunctional in AJK. This has resulted in informal structures that have enhanced social divisions and deprivation among the public. Earlier, local body elections were last held in 1991. Despite the public demand and successive governments promising to hold the LG elections in the manifestos, none were able to hold elections. However, the PTI government in 2022, announced that local government elections will be held in the region. Almost 31 years later, the region is scheduled to hold its LG elections in August as per directives of the AJK Supreme Court.
 
To conclude, the political instability in “AJK” highlights the region's electoral politics becoming a playground for larger Islamabad-based parties that see the region as a significant aspect for increasing their popularity. It also highlights the failure of a strong local party within the “AJK.”
 
References
Tariq Naqash, “Election of Azad Kashmir PM delayed as opposition moves court,” Dawn, 16 April 2022
Tariq Naqash, “Sardar Abdul Qayyum Niazi resigns as AJK PM,” Dawn, 15 April 2022
Tariq Naqash, “AJK PM meets Imran, offers to resign amid no-trust motion against him,” Dawn, 14 April 2022
AJK PM Abdul Qayyum Niazi resigns after PTI members file no-confidence motion,” Geo News, 14 April 2022
Another twist in AJK politics: PM Sardar Abdul Qayyum sacks five ministers,” The News International, 14 April 2022
Close race among three political parties in AJK polls,” The Express Tribune, 20 July 2021
Zia Ur Rehman, “Fragmented democracy: Elections in Pakistan-administered Kashmir,” TRT World, 26 July 2021
Tariq Butt, “AJK general elections: Three major political parties to try their luck,” The News International, 14 June 2021
Irtaza Muhammad, “Challenges in AJK,” The News International, 14 September 2021
Long-awaited elections,” The News International, 6 February 2022
Former Prime Ministers of AJ&K,” Prime Minister of AJK
Tariq Naqash, “PTI's Sardar Tanveer Ilyas elected new prime minister of AJK,” Dawn, 18 April 2022

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