The poll campaign to elect the 53-member regional assembly in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) entered the final phase. The elections are scheduled for 25 July 2021. Out of 53 seats, the election is held for 45 seats, while eight seats are reserved. Out of the eight reserved seats, five are for women, and three are distributed amongst religious scholars, technocrats, and overseas Kashmiri. The members for these seats are nominated after the elections.
Out of 45 seats going for elections on 25 July, 12 are reserved for 464,000 refugees –six each for those migrated from the Jammu division and the Kashmir Valley division in 1947 and 1965. Thirty thousand people registered as refugees from Kashmir Valley elect six representatives, while 4,34,000 people registered as refugees from the Jammu division elect an equal number of members. While this controversy is brewing at the local level, the larger controversy has surfaced at the national level about who will win the POK elections?
For the Sunday PoK poll, more than 3.2 million voters will be deciding the fate of 32 political parties and 724 candidates. However, the contest remains confined to three major national parties – Pakistan People Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League –Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tahreek – e – Insaaf (PTI) of Imran Khan. PPP and PML-N campaigns are being run by Bilawal Bhutto and Maryam Nawaz, respectively. Both of them have alleged that PTI is trying to buy votes in POK and engineering defections. However, an analysis of the past two general elections clearly shows the Centre’s muscle in taking control of PoK. In 2008 PPP came to power in Pakistan after ousting Musharaf. In the 2011 PoK assembly elections, it won 21 seats and formed the government. In 2013 the PML-N ousted PPP in Islamabad. In the 2016 PoK elections, PML-N took over the reins of power of PoK by winning 31 seats. It improved its tally by 21 seats. In 2016, PTI contested the election in PoK for the first time and could manage only two seats.
Going by the past, it is no brainier to see a large swing in the number of Votes for PTI. The trailer of the same was replicated in November 2020 during the 33-member Gilgit Baltistan elections. Imran Khan-led PTI, which had secured only one seat in the 2015 elections, won 22 seats in the 2020 elections. A whopping increase of 21 seats while unseated PML-N came poor third with only three seats.
Recently, Islamabad extended magisterial powers to the Pakistan Army for the safe conduct of elections in POK. It is quite evident that the hybrid government does not want to take any chance with PoK. Imran Khan-led PTI has the right backing, and past precedence of the election result makes it abundantly clear what lies in store for the electorate of PoK. The election is a ritual hybrid government at Islamabad has to go through while the result is known. Imran Khan-led PTI is set to stake the claim for forming the government in PoK.