Kashmiri Political Circles Stirred Over Sheikh Rashid's Announcement
24 July 2005
Islamabad: The announcement, on Saturday here, by Federal Information Minister Sh Rashid Ahmad that he intends to contest the coming AJK Legislative Assembly elections, has quite stirred the Kashmiri political circles long entrenched in Kashmiri politics as a domain domestically exclusive to them, Pakistan Observer gathered this impression here on Sunday. On Saturday, Sh Rashid Ahmad on the occasion of a PTV function here had expressed his serious intention to contest also (besides NA election) Azad Kashmir Assembly membership elections scheduled to be held in the State in May-June 2006 at the expiry of running 5-year term of the sitting State Assembly in Muzaffarabad. The neutral fence sitters among the Kashmiri votes bank in Kashmiri constituencies in Pakistan are instantly welcoming this announcement by Sh Rashid Ahmad, himself a Kashmiri, as a right step at a right time in today's ominous Kashmir history hedged currently by mature efforts in the region to solve old dispute of Kashmir. A group of Kashmiris see this as a 'sudden' decision .'But we believe in his enriched contents and spirit of parliamentary experience which can be highly beneficial in Kashmir context'. Some take it as a long term 'moderating strategy' towards the arduous travel to reach the ultimate destination of Kashmir settlement. 'Sheikh Sahib is close to the 'destiny-makers' and knows their chiselled idioms and constraints. After all he is believed in', one academician said. A veteran Kashmiri personage here, who did not want to be named, but whose family elders had had a pioneering role in Kashmir movement right from 1930s commented on Sh Rashid's decision: 'It seems to be a part of a well thoughtout scheme to extend Pakistani politics to the State in order to uproot established leadership in AJK who are considered by the people as monopolists'. But as Kashmiri he can fight the elections there, the same personage conceded. JKLF chairman Amanullah Khan when contacted by Pakistan Observer upheld the entitlement of Sh Rashid Ahmad to contest State Assembly's polls but said at the same time 'he would speak on the subject after thorough examination of political pros and cons'. A veteran practising Kashmiri advocate in Rawalpindi explained his viewpoint that for J&K refugees settled in Pakistan 12 Assembly seats are reserved. Any Kashmiri voter can contest against any of those seats. As a Kashmiri Sheikh Sahib has every right for polls participation, he added. Some circles see it as a 'move' to enable the voice of Pakistan Muslim League heard in State politics while some young Kashmiris view this decision as a reaction to the denial by India of Sh Rashid's travel last month to Srinagar by Kashmir bus service. 'This decision once again reinforces the Kashmiri credentials of Sh Rahid Ahmad', they added. Whatever may be the applauding or silent reaction of the Kashmiri circles, political or non-political, the fact remains that the announcement has certainly added to the degree of brain-taxing of a legion of political lineages in AJK. 'It will put Islamabad and Muzaffarabad on the same pulse levels both in the political as well as in the administrative fields - surely a time-need' these sources said. Political non-conformists described Sh Rashid Ahmad as a political legend returning successful to his cherished target in master political fights, referring to his political career.