Tuesday, October 22, 2019
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POK election nothing but a farce

by Farooq Ganderbali

It seems Pakistan is bent upon not learning its lessons from experience. It lost one wing of the country, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), because it refused to accept the verdict of the elections in 1971. It did so because leadership in West Pakistan did not want a person from the Eastern wing, Sheikh Mujeebur Rehman, to become the Prime Minister of the country.
The result was uprising in Dhaka followed by a war, humiliating surrender of its troops and ultimately dismemberment of the country. Any other nation faced with such a gory history would never do again what Pakistan has been doing with so called elections in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The elections held in POK are nothing but a farce, a mockery and a drama.
Let us begin from the beginning. The so-called house has 49 seats. But direct election is held for only 41 seats. The remaining 8 seats are filed through voting by those already elected to the house. Five of these seats are earmarked for women and one each for technocrats, religious scholars and overseas Kashmiris. The provision has been there to give a leg space to the ruling party to manipulate the numbers in the race for power. In other words, these eight are bonus seats for the asking. There is no such provision the world over, to ask the newly elected members of a house to elect additional members to the same house.
As if this is not enough, people of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir can elect only 29 lawmakers, and not all the 41 law makers. This is because 12 seats are earmarked for Kashmiris who had migrated from POK to other parts of Pakistan between 1947 and 1971. How they vote and where they vote to elect their representatives is a mystery.
The position in Gilgit and Baltistan is worse. They are part of Jammu and Kashmir but have been separated from POK and given a nomenclature of Northern Areas to be ruled directly by Pakistan through the Northern Areas Council. The people of these areas have not seen an election for the last 60 years.
POK has the trappings of a country as it has a President, a Prime Minister and a legislature but in reality it is not even a province. In any case both the President and the Prime Minister have only the titular heads after the Karachi Agreement of 1949 between Pakistan, POK and the Muslim League handed over real power to Pakistan; only residual powers are left with POK government.
In nutshell no elections were held in POK till 1960. In the next fifteen years till 1975 only indirect elections were held. Afterwards it was Marshall law all over. All this makes a mockery of Pakistan’s claims. The world is aware of the history of Pakistan as a country of governed by its army, sometimes from the barracks and more of than not from the Presidential Palace. Islamabad cannot hoodwink the world anymore.

(The author is a Kashmir based senior journalist & columnist)

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