February 2004 News

Crisis In AJK

29 February 2004
The Nation

Lahore: CHRONIC rivalries in the ruling Azad Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference have resurfaced with a bang. The over-week-long crisis in the government further intensified on Friday when a parliamentary secretary tendered resignation protesting against the 'attitude' of Prime Minister Sardar Sikandar Hayat. Three ministers, one of whom also happens to be the central secretary of the ruling party, have already resigned, citing differences with Sardar Sikandar on political and administrative matters. They have also criticised him for indulging in a one-man show and failing to safeguard the legitimate rights of the party workers. While attempts are currently underway to resolve the differences, Sardar Sikandar is reportedly weighing the two other options of inviting the PPP(AJK) to join the government or to dissolve the Assembly. The two factions of the Muslim Conference led respectively by Sardar Qayyum and Sardar Sikandar had rejoined hands before the July 2001 elections. Rivalries between the two however surfaced soon after the elections, with Sardar Sikandar using the PPP card to get the post of Prime Minister, coveted by Sardar Attique Ahmad Khan, younger son and political heir of the AJKMC supremo. A formula to share power was however devised to keep the factions united. The plan required the election of Sardar Qayyum as President. This was however foiled by the powers that be which had decided in the meanwhile to induct a retired army general of Azad Kashmiri origin to the office. The two factions have consequently remained in a state of low intensity conflict during the last two years and a half. With the resignations, the power struggle has come into the open. The crisis could not have occurred at a more inexpedient time. Important developments are taking place in the region that could have profound implications for the future of the Kashmiri people. Pakistan and India have agreed to take up the Kashmir issue as a part of a composite dialogue. Pressure by major powers continues to be exerted on both to resolve their differences including the Kashmir dispute. The Indian government has initiated a process of talks with the APHC while it enjoys the support of the puppet administration in occupied Kashmir installed after the fraudulent elections last year. What is required under the circumstances is unanimity among the Kashmiri leadership on both sides of the LoC. The situation on the ground is however altogether different. The APHC which had brought together different groups of Kashmiris demanding self determination stands divided. There is a need on the part of the AJK President as well as those pulling strings from Murree and Rawalpindi to stop the crisis from getting out of hand, as this is bound to weaken the Kashmiri cause. The AJKMC has a special role in the Kashmiri freedom struggle, and it needs unity to play it now.


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