October 2004 News

In-house Change In AJK On The Cards

5 October 2004
The Nation

Islamabad: Losing support constantly Sardar Sikandar government in Azad Jammu and Kashmir has reached a point to face an in-house change as efforts resolving differences within the ruling Muslim Conference so far have gone in vein. Barrister Sultan Mehmood, Opposition Leader in AJK Legislative Assembly, is being tipped by all the knowledgeable quarters as the most potential replacement of Sardar Sikandar Hayat. Barrister's successful negotiations with the estranged group of ruling Muslim Conference (MC) have paved his way to the AJK premiership. Former finance minister Shah Ghulam Qadir parting ways with Sardar is now leading a 12-member like-minded group and negotiating with the opposition for a coalition government led by AJK People's Party after toppling Sikandar government. According to well placed sources, the high-ups in Islamabad especially concerning Kashmir, have given a green signal to Barrister Sultan Mehmood for formation of a new govt. The sources told The Nation that People's Party Chairperson Benazir Bhutto has also approved the idea of her party-led coalition government in the AJK. According to the sources, she has directed the party cadres in Azad Kashmir to leave no stone unturned in materializing the chance of People's Party to from government with like-minded group of the MC. The sources further said that governmental change in AJK would have taken place till now but it was delayed due to top level reshuffle in Pakistan Army including that of Corps Commander Rawalpindi. The sources said the in-house change is expected to take place within a couple of weeks. However, the camp of Sardar Sikandar is all-out to save its government and secret meetings are being held with influential quarters in Islamabad, the sources said. In their last ditch effort, some of the ruling quarters in the Capital have asked Shah Ghulam Qadir group to end its now with Sikandar but the group made it clear that they have reached the point of 'no return'. The federal government had earlier decided to intervene in the AJK affairs to help end political crisis when 12 MC Members of Legislative Assembly being led by Shah Ghulam Qadir had declared withdrawal from support to Sikandar government. The total strength of the Muslim Conference in the AJK Assembly is 32. According to sources, out of that 15 members are supporting the Prime Minister, 12 are backing Qadir, three members are floating while remaining one alongwith Muslim Conference President Sardar Atique Ahmed Khan is neutral. For the formation of government, the Leader of the House needs support of 25 MLAs. AJK PP has 16 members in the Legislative Assembly and the leader of Opposition Barrister Sultan Mehmood can easily form a new government with the support of 12-member like-minded group of Qadir, the sources said.


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