Farce Elections In Pak Occupied Kashmir

Dr Misfar Hassan

The recent elections in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) are over now. How were these elections conducted and how have the previous elections been conducted. I will be presenting a brief overview for those who just observe these elections from outside, never having been a part of it but they make analysis based on hearsay or by reading newspaper reports and currently the social media information/misinformation.
A simple example is as one cannot learn how to swim without taking a dive in a pool one cannot understand how these elections are conducted without contesting or without being part of a team with a contesting candidate.

A brief overview of the history of the recent election in past years the elections in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) were held in 1985 after a gap of about eight years due to martial law being imposed in Pakistan by General Zia ul Haq.

The elections were contested by the Muslim Conference with the backing of General Zia while the four political parties including Jammu Kashmir Liberation League, Tehreek I Amal Azad Muslim conference of Sultan Mehmood formed an alliance and contested the elections.

No one got the absolute majority as about six independent candidates won elections who later on through intervention General Zia joined Muslim Conference apart from one member Farooq Shah who joined Jammu Kashmir Liberation League.

This is how Muslim Conference formed the government.

The next elections of 1990 were held with the JKLL and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in alliance; the government formed as a result lasted only nine months and Mumtaz Hussain Rathore who was prime minister dissolved the assembly that paved the way for another election in 1991.

At that time it was the Pakistan Muslim League (N) government in Pakistan and Mian Nawaz Sharif was Prime Minister. He made a public statement that he would present the 12 seats of the refugees living in Pakistan on a plate to Sardar Abdul Qyyum.

Of the 12 seats, 10 were won by candidates of the Muslim Conference (MC). I was a candidate from the Rawalpindi constituency. The local district management facilitated the MC candidate apart from funds given to each candidate for elections to win the seats.

Similarly, in 1996 elections, it was the PPP government in Pakistan with Benazir Bhutto as prime minister her party won elections. I was again a candidate from the same constituency as the candidate I was not given a chance to vote for as local PPP activists took over the polling stations in collaboration with district management and they got favourable results.

This has been a broad daylight robbery and calling them elections carried no meaning.

This drama was repeated every five years. I would now describe the recent elections. For the first time in the 73 years of history, the region became a political battleground between three political parties of Pakistan namely Ruling PTI, Pakistan Peoples’ Party and PML-N.

All three parties held large public meetings. In these meetings the young political leaders reverted to discussing their own political differences using bad language, often verbally abusing each other in public.

The federal minister for Kashmir Affairs Ali Amin Gandapur who hails from a rural area of Punjab used extremely derogatory language during public meetings. The Chief Election Commissioner ordered him to leave the area but he disobeyed the orders and Imran Khan supported this illegal act.

This minister announced development schemes worth billions and even offered cash to those who will vote for PTI candidates. Using these tactics as well as poll rigging the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf bagged 26 seats.

These are the facts with plenty of evidence that Imran Khan and his minster neither had a shame for its coercive tactics nor did they show any respect for law.

During the elections, people across the region raised voices about what had the local government done in their five years of rule. There are no roads in vast areas. People do not have access to clean drinking water; the treatment facilities are minimal while the majority of rural areas children do not have access to decent schools.

Social media was flooded with development on Jammu and Kashmir showing good highways, rail connections and airport facilities, while health and education facilities are remarkably better in the areas under Indian administration.

Recently local body elections were also held in Jammu and Kashmir in which the people and political parties participated fully. There were no accusations of involvement of the Indian government as per media reports.

This indicates a political maturity on the other side of the Line of Control (LoC) as in India no one has ever imposed martial law or suspended elected government.

Coming back to recent elections in PoK, there were many skirmishes at various polling stations but in one of the constituencies from where the sitting opposition leader was contesting there was an incident of firing with loss of lives.

On the next day of elections in the Neelum Valley area, there was another sad incident when the paramilitary forces from Pakistan opened fire on people resulting in the killing of one person and wounding of several.

Strong protests broke out; roads were blocked as a result paramilitary persons on election duty from Pakistan were arrested. We will have to wait and see if justice would be done as in the case of military generals General Musharraf was convicted by the court for treason for suspending the constitution and imposing Martial Law but the military establishment facilitated him to run away from the court.

He is now absconding from living in England. People have no faith left in the judicial system like many others aforementioned.

In such scenarios, these elections, like many previous, carry no meaning for people of Pakistan occupied Kashmir as well as in Gilgit Baltistan where similar elections were conducted a year ago.

(Dr Misfar Hassan is a Kashmiri political activist living in the United Kingdom. He is a medical doctor by profession – ANI)

Pakistan Military Won Elections In PoK

July 25, 2021, will be remembered as the day when elections held for the so-called legislative assembly of Pakistani-occupied Kashmir (PoK) were marred with rigging, violence and murder under the watchful eye of the Pakistani military establishment itself.

So far 25 Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and 11 Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) candidates allegedly approved by none other than Pakistani Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa have been officially declared winners taking first and second place respectively.

Ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has only been able to bag six seats. This clearly demonstrates that for the first time in the history of PoK, the Pakistani military establishment will not only be able to form a government but also have a pro-Bajwa opposition. Hence, Pakistan’s Army Chief will be able to play one against the other whenever he finds it beneficial to his political ambitions in the region.

The aforementioned elections have also proved to be a money-grabbing event. Prior to July 25, sector commander of PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan Brigadier Naeem Malik was caught red-handed accepting bribes from PTI candidates. It was reported that Malik has offered PTI candidate billionaire Ilyas Tanvir the position of the prime minister of the occupied territory for a cash lump sum of one billion rupees of which one million was taken as token money.

Brigadier Naeem has likewise been accused of selling tickets to PTI candidates and promised them a victory. He has been accused of manipulating the appointment of Judges of both the High and Supreme courts and issuing favour to selected construction companies in PoK.

The Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, Ali Ameen Gandapur was barred by the Election Commission from entering PoK after he gave five lakh rupees to a PTI candidate. The money was confiscated.

But Gandapur refused to abide by the orders of EC and continued to visit several constituencies in PoK. On one occasion when confronted by the youth he got out of his motor, pulled out his pistol and began firing!

Besides the above-mentioned tactics by means of which the outcome of the current elections has been controlled, there are other factors involved as well such.

The role of Lent officers, head of the revenue department, the patwari, and the tehsildar. Their role is to ensure that people living in their area vote for the candidate who is favored by the Pakistan military. During the last week of the election campaign, they start to pay visits to families of those who they consider are still in doubt about who to cast their vote for.

All sorts of pressures are applied to motivate them to fall in line for a meager monetary favour. And they do fall in line since they know that the price they will be paying in form of extortion and requisition of their lands by the patwari on behalf of the Pakistan army will be too much to bear.

The most important document for a government servant, serving in PoK, is his or her Annual Confidential Report commonly referred to as ACR that is prepared by senior bureaucrats. It is this ACR on which all government servants depend for promotions and any disobedience of one’s superiors means that one is side-lined for the rest of one’s life.

Here is when they become the most effective tool that is applied to bully hundreds of thousands of government servants to cast their votes in accordance with the dictates of their supervisors.

PoK is run by a troika composed of the Minister of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, Chief Secretary and the Inspector General of police. All three are non-resident Pakistanis appointed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Hence they are referred to as Lent officers. The accomplishment of the election result desired by the military establishment is fulfilled by them.

It is therefore not surprising that despite the crowd-puller public meetings held all over POK by Maryam Nawaz, PTI has managed to secure a ‘convincing’ victory pushing the ruling PML-N to third place.

Forty thousand extra troops were deployed at polling stations on July 25 to maintain peace. However, it was the very military that stood by as silent spectators as PTI goons carried on with violence and occupied the polling station where they uninterruptedly marked PTI candidates.

The hypocrisy of PPP and PML-N is now evident. Although both parties have accused PTI of applying a combination of violence, bullying and rigging yet, according to reliable inner circles who spoke to this scribe, they refuse to launch a wider protest campaign for fear of India using it as a pretext to exposing the plight of the subjugated people of PoK to those living in the valley.

(Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoK. He currently lives in exile in the UK. – ANI)

Pakistan’s Diplomatic Downfall, Internal Implosion

Unable to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Suleiman of Saudi Arabia, the high-powered delegation led by Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Bajwa and ISI chief has returned empty-handed to Islamabad.

In addition to the humiliation caused by failing to gain an audience with the Crown Prince, the Saudi government also cancelled its decision to honour General Bajwa, a promise that was made by the Islamic Kingdom just a few months earlier.

The trip of the Pakistani generals to Saudi Arabia comes after Saudi Arabia cancelled a USD 3.2 billion oil credit facility to Pakistan. In 2018, when Imran Khan ‘won’ the general elections, Saudi Arabia gave Pakistan a loan of USD 3 billion to help the latter with its balanced of payments crisis and issued the above-mentioned oil credit facility to Pakistan.

Saudi Arabia’s decision to cancel the oil credit facility to its Muslim brother country came after Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi issued a statement literally threatening the Saudi led Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to convene an emergency special session on Kashmir or else he would call a meeting of like-minded Muslim ‘brother’ countries. This tantamount to splitting the Saudi led alliance.

The statement enraged the Saudis and in retaliation they cancelled the USD 3.2 billion oil credit facility and made a demand that Pakistan pays back USD 1 billion dollars that it already owes them. Pakistan had to beg China to lend her the money in order to pay Saudi Arabia. Since the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gave the so-called special status to the former state of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan has suffered an anti-India diplomatic knockout. Pakistan has isolated herself and the country has only itself to blame.

Defence analyst Major (R) Gaurav Arya says that in today’s global economic environment only a pluralistic approach would work. And rightly so. UAE and Israel establishing diplomatic and trade relations brokered by Donald Trump’s administration is testimony to the reality of pluralism in a cutthroat competitive global market. Regrouping of nation-states into new economic zones and partnerships requires new thinking and bold leadership.

Unfortunately, Pakistan is still entrapped in the obsolete political narrative of the Ottoman period and has failed to produce or even adapt to new patterns of thought and give birth to bold leadership. Pakistan and its politics is rooted in envy, dishonesty and deception and has cost her the trust of the global community.

Today, Pakistan is known for its hate of Hindus, being envious of a fast-developing India, for its corrupt and dishonest handling of foreign aid and its trickery and deception in dodging the global community in the fight to eliminate Taliban and other variants of Islamic Jihadist organisations such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammad or the recently covert terrorist outfit The Resistance Front which Major (R) Gaurav Arya calls “secularisation of terrorism”.

The news regarding the establishment of diplomatic relations between UAE and Israel coincided with another important development. 10,000 Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) stationed in the Kashmir Valley have been directed by the Home Ministry to return to their bases in mainland India. This sends a strongmessage to the global community regarding the law and order improvement in the ill-fated region of the Kashmir Valley.

Since the abrogation of Article 370, peace has been re-established in the Valley at a more-than-expected fast pace. No bloodbath has taken place as previously predicted (read threatened) by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Scores of sleeping terrorist cells have been busted in Srinagar and many jihadi infiltrators, as well as home-grown individual terrorists, have been eliminated in deadly encounters in which our jawans have also laid down their lives. And even more interestingly, (but mostly unreported in Indian media), people of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) have been holding protests against Pakistan almost every single day.

Daily protests are now the new norm in PoK. The political and social content of these protests range from demonstrations against long durations of load shedding in Palandri for instance, to demands for justice raised in Nakyal for Ejaz Abbasi, a senior PoK journalist who was beaten up at the Press Information Department (PID) in Islamabad a couple of weeks ago, to torch-bearing rallies in Muzafarabad against the diversion of Neelum-Jhelum River for Azad Patan and Kohala Hydropower Projects, both of which are part of the illegal CPEC agreement between Pakistan (read military) and China (read Communist Party-controlled corporations).

The CPEC is illegal because PoK is Indian territory occupied by Pakistan and the later cannot enter into any defence or economic agreement that include GB or PoK until and unless the territorial dispute between Pakistan and India is resolved and Pakistan withdraws its army from GB and PoK.

Similarly, in Pakistani-occupied GB, people are protesting against cuts in wheat subsidies, illegal land grab of green pastures in Nilter, land grab for a bus stand in Gilgit as well as for the illegal extension of Gilgit airport, lack of medical facilities in Hunza, Load shedding in Skardu, and so on and so forth.

The USD 14 billion Diamer-Bhasha Dam Hydroelectric project is another issue that has generated anxiety among the subjugated population of GB. The displaced people of the villages in and around the historic city of Chillas are awaiting the deceitful promise made by the Pakistan and Chinese companies to resettle them and pay compensation for loss of their ancestral home.

For every 25 people in GB, there is one Pakistani army personnel deployed. Only last month, Imran Khan approved of an additional 100 army platoons to be sent to Diamer district to protect the construction site of the dam.

Pakistan’s high handedness and arrogance is manifest in the fact that she does not even bother to consult the real stakeholders of CPEC or so-called developmental project that are being initiated in the occupied territory of GB or PoK. Therefore, in the coming weeks and months, conflict between PoK/GB and Pakistani establishment seems inevitable. This became evident when on August 5 this year Imran Khan went to address the puppet legislative assembly in PoK.

During his speech, a rebellious PoK Prime Minister Farooq Haider, demanded that Imran Khan and Pakistan grant PoK self-determination! He said, “The world will not listen to you (Pakistan), however, if we (PoK) were free and had autonomy then they themselves would take their case to the global community!” This came as a shock to the Pakistani establishment.

Likewise, the outgoing chief minister of GB Hafiz Hafeez Ur Rehman, has been complaining about Pakistan’s high handedness in dealing with pressing issues related to GB. Hence, Pakistan has lost the goodwill and the trust of its ‘Muslim’ brothers living under occupation in GB and PoK and they now seem desperate to find a solution to end their misery.

On the other hand, Pakistan is faced with an insurgency in Balochistan that is now turning into a civil war between the oppressed Baloch people and the barbaric Pakistani army. Similar, with the resurfacing of independence movement in Sindh reignited by peasant-based Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army; a previously non-violent nationalist, anti-feudal, anti-Pakistan sentiment is now gradually turning into an armed insurgency.

While this movement has managed to catch the imagination of the youth, more importantly, it has been able to attract the Sindhi urban lower-middle and working-class since urban-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) announced that it would join the struggle to free Sindh from Pakistani occupation.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) is becoming a focal for crusade against the atrocities of Pakistan military in the tribal areas. In Punjab, a witch-hunt against those who oppose domination of civil society by military and Islamic clergy is currently underway. Sackings of Professors Pervez Hoodbhoy and Ammar Ali Jaan of Quid-e-Azam University in Islamabad and FC College in Lahore respectively are fresh examples of state-sponsored repression in Punjab.

The new Tahafuz e Bunyaad e Islam (Protection of Fundamentals of Islam) bill passed by the Punjab assembly last month is seen as part of establishments’ attempts to impose censorship on print and spoken word. 100 books were banned immediately after the bill became an Act. More than 1,000 books are being scrutinised by the state to check if they meet the Wahhabi narrative of Islam. Hence cultural and intellectual genocide has begum in Punjab. Student and workers’ protesting and striking for better pay and health and safety facilities are now holding joint protest rallies in Lahore.

The recent visit to Saudi Arabia by Pakistan Army chief General Bajwa and DG ISI that ended up in humiliation will add to the feeling of alienation and haplessness among the common people in Punjab and PoK in particular and Pakistan in general. The failure of Imran Khan to provide 50 lakh houses and 10 million jobs, a GDP showing negative growth of minus 0.38 per cent and the persecution of political opponents are all perfect ingredients of a recipe for rebellion.

However, it is the recent visit of the Pakistan Army chief and DG ISI along with other top brass military officials and Pakistan’s perpetual failure in harnessing diplomatic support that could prove to be the last bale carrying the straw that will sink the ship.

The aftermath of the downward diplomatic spiral and the impending rebellion of Pakistani society can be summed up in Major (R) Gaurav Arya’s own words “an implosion of the synthetically manufactured country called Pakistan is neigh.”

The author who is a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoK. He currently lives in exile in the UK. (ANI)