A Tale Of Two Elections In Jammu & Kashmir
The month of November has witnessed elections in two different parts of the former Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir. On November 15, elections were held in Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) wherevotes were cast to elect a puppet legislative assembly. And on November 28, Direct Development Council (DDC) elections were held in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir for the first time.
The DDC elections were held in order to elect representatives who would be in charge of development projects in their respective districts.
The GB elections were more of a ‘make-PTI-win’ by hook or crook exercise. Originally the elections were scheduled to be held in August. However, excuses were made regarding incomplete voters list and elections were postponed for three months.
Critics of Imran Khan are of the view that this was a manoeuvre to let winter set in so that far-flung regions in the mountainous region would be blocked due to snowfall thus making it impossible for voters to get to the far and few polling stations.
The DDC elections in Jammu and Kashmir were held for the first time in the history of the Union Territory. They are designed to devolve power and to transfer control of local development from a centralised UT government right down to the district level.
On the contrary, the GB elections were a power grab scam which enabled the federal government in Pakistan to ‘select’ a toothless rubber-stamp legislative assembly.
On election day, ballot boxes were stolen and ‘unknown’ gunmen armed with guns attacked more than one polling station in GB and allegedly replaced numerous ballot boxes with those which had already been filled with votes to make ‘selected’ PTI candidates win.
At least 1,700 postal votes were discovered in Astore which had mysteriously been stamped before the election date.
Despite vigorous election campaign run by Pakistan People’s Party leader Bilawal Zardari Bhutto and Maryam Nawaz of Pakistan-Muslim League Nawaz drawing the largest crowds at her public meetings in Gilgit and Skardu they only managed to bag 4 and 2 seats respectively. The PTI bagged 8.
It has been the norm in previous GB elections held in 2009 and 2013 that the party which formed government in Pakistan would win in GB as well.
However, this time around the poor performance of Imran Khan government in Pakistan, the lack of grass root party organisation in GB, the resentment against the declaration of turning GB into Pakistan’s fifth province and the resonance of the anti-military establishment public discontent displayed at several rallies held across the country under the banner ofPakistan Democratic Movement were decisive elements that everyone had realised would grossly dent PTI popularity, if any, in GB, and that the PTI would lose miserably.
However, today we have a PTI government in GB. This can only happen in Pakistan where the invisible hand of Pakistani military establishment works in mysterious ways. But the people of GB have rejected the tampered election results and taken to the streets.
Violent protests set in across the land and in Gilgit and Skardu they continue for over a week. All major opposition parties have refused to accept the election results.
The DDC elections held on November 28 were held undisputed. Even the Gupkar gang did not raise a finger to challenge the transparency of the voting process. Electors in the valley came out in their droves to vote.
A 120-year-old woman was carried on the back of her great-grandchild to the pollingstation. Despite the bone-chilling cold and the fear of terrorist attempts to disrupt the polling, people came out and voted.
A glance at the percentage of votes might give us a better understanding of how seriously people took the DDC elections. In an interview with this scribe Sajid Yousaf Shah, CEO of The Real Kashmir News said that more people turned up at the polling stations in South Kashmir than North Kashmir.
This, he claimed, was of great significance since most of the violence and terrorism was previously attributed to the Southern part of the valley.
Perilously notorious trouble spots such as Kupwara, Shopian, Doda, Kathua and Samba to name a few, witnessed a turn out of 50.74 per cent, 42.58 per cent, 64.49 per cent, 62.82 per cent and 68.61 per cent respectively. The total overall turnout was recorded at 51.76 per cent.
No untoward incident was reported during the polling. This shows the resilience of the people of Kashmir who have been held hostages for seven decades by those who now comprise the Gupkar gang.
The politics of communal hate and insecurity are over or so it seems at least for now. The fact that people turn up at the polling stations in Jammu Kashmir is a testimony of approval of the abrogation of article 370 and 35A.
The second phase of the DDC elections will be held soon. This will include areas that were left out in the first phase. Unlike GB where elections have brought more repression of the colonial occupier, the DDC elections are to prove the steam engine for progress and prosperity.
The tale of two elections have brought about two opposing outcomes.
While DDC election in Jammu Kashmir will help the Union Territory to take long strides towards integrating its economic and political with the living body of Hindustan, in GB the struggle to free our people from the clutches of jihadist oppression and colonial slavery continues.
(The author is a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoJK. He currently lives in exile in the UK — ANI)