Amphitheater for PoJK polls all set under watchful barrel of an AK-47 carrying Pak soldier

On June 19, the Election Commission of Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) held an all party conference in Muzaffarabad. Among others, Prime Minister Farooq Haider was also in attendance. Haider was representing his party, the Jammu Kashmir section of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. During the conference, the Chief Election Commissioner, a retired chief justice, Abdul Rasheed Sulehria dictated the terms of the election code of conduct which among other diktats included the humiliating announcement that in addition to the PoJK Police, “jawans from the Pakistan Army, Rangers and the Punjab Police will be stationed at the polling stations” on July 25.

None of the leaders of the political parties present on the occasion dared to challenge the deployment of Pakistan Army on July 25 election day. Well, Sulehria had made it clear in his opening statement that political parties, their candidates and polling agents must refrain from uttering remarks or opinion that in any way would undermine the sovereignty of judicial system in Pakistan and the professional integrity of her armed forces.

The uninterrupted speech of the Chief Election Commissioner at the conference was applauded as it went along and leaders of PoJK keenly bowed down to the briefs promising to abide by the rules their Pakistani masters had set.

More than two dozen political parties and campaign groups will contest among themselves like Roman Gladiators in the political amphitheater of PoJK set by Pakistan Army Chief Gen Qamar Jawed Bajwa, the de facto emperor of the near bankrupt empire of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Hence, the elections for the PoJK legislative assembly will be contested in the name of Islam, Pakistan and (obviously) gaining of an imaginary ‘freedom’ for the so-called besieged Kashmiris living happily in Indian union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

In the wake of a ban on criticizing Pakistan by relating her plunder of local natural resources such as our rivers, mines and forests to the economic misery that we face every day, the PoJK elections are reduced to a contest based on clan and tribal allegiance devoid of any political agenda. Hence, it is more like a kabaddi match in which the Jatt is pitted against the Gujjar and the Sudhan against the Rajput Dogra.

That the elections in the PoJK have always been an empty exercise of democracy is because each one of the candidate has to sign a bond-of-allegiance to Pakistan. Not only that but they also have to sign an oath declaring he supports the ideology of Pakistan which is another way of saying that they support the two-nation-of Muhammed Ali Jinnah that pitches the Muslims of the sub-continent against the rest. Therefore, all those parties which claim to be nationalists and pro-independence are by default barred from the election process.

Currently, there are twelve brigades of Pakistan army stationed in Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Kotli, Toli Peer, Rawalakot, Bagh, Bhimber and the infamous Line of Control. But none of the candidates is allowed to remind their constituents that as a pretext to returning to peace in the region the UN Resolution 48 dictates the UN Security Council to make demand that Pakistan must withdraw her troops and all aliens from the occupied territory of Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan even before any peace talks could begin.

Similarly, none of the candidates will be contesting on a manifesto that promises to take steps to challenge the human rights abuses carried out in PoJK on a daily basis. Since that would bring into question the role of the Pakistan army and the Pakistan controlled unelected body called Kashmir Council which runs supreme and is not answerable to the POJK legislative assembly when it comes to making decision regarding the law and order or any constitutional change in PoJK.

I sincerely hope that the political leadership of union territory have all of the above in their mind when they meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on June 24. Let them not forget that the very next month on July 25 PoJK we will be forced to exercise our right to choose yet another spineless legislative assembly under the watchful barrel of an AK-47 carrying Pakistani soldier.

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