March 2004 News

AJK PM, rivals asked to defuse crisis

1 March 2004
The Nation
Shaiq Hussain

Lahore: The government as well as relevant army quarters have expressed displeasure over the grave political crisis in Azad Kashmir and directed for its immediate resolution as its prolongation would send negative signals abroad when peace process with India is underway. ' has sent an important message to both the AJK Prime Minister Sardar Sikandar Hayat and his opposition faction in the Muslim Conference led by Sardar Attique to resolve the issue as soon as possible through Kashmir Affairs Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao and other channels,' wellplaced sources confided to The Nation. It was after this message that he received through Kashmir Affairs Minister that AJK Prime Minister Sardar Sikandar Hayat convened a crucial cabinet meeting on March 4 to defuse the political crisis and avert serious threats to his government, the sources said. The cabinet meeting is also likely to be followed by the ruling party's parliamentary party meeting on the same day as Sardar Attique, Muslim Conference President and now a serious contender for Premier slot, has asserted that he has the support of at least 22 members of parliamentary party. The sources privy to Muslim Conference said that Sardar Attique on Monday called here on AJK President Sardar Anwar Khan who has asked the latter to resolve the issue in parliamentary party meeting. The sources said that Sardar Sikandar, on his part, made a phone call Monday to a top concerning military official who in return told him to resolve the matter amicably within the party folds. Both the Jamali government and the relevant army circles have opted for neutral posture and wanted amicable solution to the problem, they added. They said that in the backdrop of unfolding events after the resignations of Finance Minister Shah Ghulam Qadir and other ministers the forthcoming meetings of cabinet and parliamentary party on March 4 have assumed great importance and all eyes were now fixed on that decisive day. The political crisis in Azad Kashmir erupted when two ministers Masood Khalid and Tariq Farooq resigned due to their differences with the prime minister. They were followed by their two other cabinet colleagues Shah Ghulam Qadir and Hafiz Hamid Raza. These resignations on the part of ministers followed by that of the two parliamentary secretaries forced the AJK prime minister to try and win back their support and for that he met the Muslim Conference Supreme Head Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan as all the resignations were submitted to him. Moreover, the AJK prime minister believed that the party head and Qayyum's son Sardar Attique, with his eyes on prime minister slot, was behind the ministers' revolt but his meeting with the veteran Kashmiri politician paid no dividends. According the sources, Sardar Attique had so far refused to withdraw from his demand of Sikandar's resignation as according to him Sikandar had agreed with him that after half way through his rule he would step down and give way to Attique to assume the prime minister office and now the time had come that the agreement be implemented. However, the sources said that the AJK prime minister had rejected any such agreement and had refused to step down while asserting that he had full support of the parliamentary party. He had also ruled out the dissolution of Legislative Assembly, saying that keeping in view the support he had there was no need to take such an extreme step.


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