AJK Election 2021: Voting Underway Amidst Violence, Killings
Polling is underway in Azad Kashmir for the 11th general election to the Legislative Assembly. Direct elections are taking place for 45 seats in the 53-member Legislative Assembly,.of these, 12 seats are reserved for Kashmiri refugees residing in Pakistan for whom polling is underway in various cities of Pakistan.
Five of the eight seats are reserved for women, while one seat is reserved for technocrats, clerics and overseas Kashmiris. The schedule of indirect elections for these seats will be announced separately.
This is the first election in Azad Kashmir since India ended its autonomous status of Kashmir. That is why the opposition parties in Pakistan, including the ruling PTI, are also very active in the elections.
According to election observers in Kashmir, local issues such as water and roads are more likely to affect elections than elections in Kashmir, but this time India’s move on August 5, 2019 in the election campaign of political parties has been quite prominent.
Competition between the ruling party in the center and Kashmir
According to the Election Commission, the total number of registered voters in the region is 3,220,546, of which 43,456 are Kashmiri refugees residing in Pakistan.
The total number of candidates contesting these elections is 708 and they include 317 independent candidates. The number of candidates in the local constituencies of Pakistan-administered Kashmir is 587 while 121 candidates are from Kashmiri refugee constituencies.
261 for 33 seats in local constituencies while 56 independent candidates are also in the fray in 12 refugee constituencies. Although a significant number of young people are running in these elections, the number of female candidates is negligible.
Surprisingly, out of the three major parties, the PPP did not issue tickets directly to any female candidate. However, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the PML-N nominated two women candidates.
In Pakistan-administered Kashmir, the competition has previously been between two major parties. Until 2006, the Muslim Conference and the Pakistan People’s Party were the largest parties in the region.
In 2011, the Muslim Conference was replaced by the PML-N. In the 2011 and 2016 elections, the contest was between the PML-N and the PPP. For the first time, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has emerged as a third major political force, and experts believe that with Pakistan in power, there is a strong possibility that the PTI could form a government by winning elections in the region.
The general impression in Pakistan-administered Kashmir is that the ruling party in Pakistan forms the government in the region and this impression has been maintained in the last 11 elections. However, this time due to the full-fledged election campaign of the three parties, it is likely that the ruling party PTI in Pakistan will face stiff competition from both the rival parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party and the PML-N, instead of a one-sided contest. ۔
Different election campaigns than in the past
These elections are different from the previous ones in many ways. Elections are being held in Pakistan-administered Kashmir for the first time since India abolished its special constitutional status on August 5, 2019.
In her meetings, Maryam Nawaz continued to criticize the government as well as the establishment.
Some analysts expect voters to react to the alleged ineffectiveness of Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir governments in the wake of India’s move.
However, most analysts believe that elections in the region are based on issues such as local development and employment, and that the Kashmir dispute has always been a secondary issue in elections.
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