Muslim Conference in crisis over tickets: Five ministers form group
27 May 2006
Muzaffarabad: The award of tickets by the Muslim Conference for AJK Legislative Assembly election has led to a crisis in the party as five disgruntled ministers have formed their own group in protest against the decision and one has joined an opposition party after resigning from his office. The crisis began after the Muslim Conference parliamentary board announced party tickets for 38 of the 41 constituencies, turning down applications of at least six cabinet members. Senior Minister Raja Abdul Qayyum Khan from Muzaffarabad, Education Minister Chaudhry Mohammad Aziz from Bagh, Tourism Minister Mufti Mansoorur Rehman from Neelum and Zakat and Usher Minister Chaudhry Yasin Gulshan from Poonch were denied tickets. Agriculture Minister Noreen Arif from Muzaffarabad and Industries Minister Haji Yaqub Khan from Poonch also failed to get the tickets as their cabinet colleagues were adjusted in their constituencies. Ms Arif, elected against one of the five seats reserved for women, was vying for the party ticket for LA-24, Muzaffarabad-I, but it was awarded to Forests Minister Mir Ali Akbar, the incumbent MLA from the constituency. For LA-19, Poonch-III, a ticket was denied to Yaqub Khan, who had won the last election from there. The ticket was awarded to Transport Minister Sardar Tahir Anwar Khan, who was elected the last time against a seat reserved for technocrats. On Thursday, Yasin Gulshan resigned from the cabinet and joined the newly launched People’s Muslim League. He alleged that he had been denied the ticket because he could not ‘grease the palm’ of the Muslim Conference leadership. The other ministers ignored by the parliamentary board have formed the ‘Haqiqi Muslim Conference’ group in the party and vowed to contest the election as independent candidates. The group’s convenor Chaudhry Aziz accused party president Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan of damaging the Muslim Conference by his ‘vindictive style of politics’. “We will contest the election from the same constituencies as independent candidates and teach a lesson to those who have awarded party tickets against merit,” Mr Aziz said. He was flanked by Raja Qayyum, Mufti Mansoor, Haji Yaqub, Noreen Arif, Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission Chairman Sardar Mohammad Altaf Khan and former MLA Sardar Abdul Ghaffar Khan. The group claimed that it enjoyed the support of the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Information Technology Shamim Akhtar, who had also been denied party ticket from a Kashmiri refugees’ constituency in Punjab. The disgruntled ministers and advisers belong to Prime Minister Sardar Sikandar Hayat’s camp in the ruling party and they say that they have been punished by Sardar Attique for supporting the premier. “There had been consultations with me on award of tickets but those consultations have not been followed in totality,” the prime minister told newsmen on Thursday. It was learnt that before making the announcement regarding the formation of the Haqiqi group, the disgruntled ministers had held a meeting with the prime minister in Muzaffarabad. The Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Abdul Khaliq Wassi on Friday dismissed speculations that the group had been formed with his blessings but said “It is a fact that they have been punished for their loyalty to the prime minister.” Also on Friday, Ms Arif kicked off her election campaign by holding a meeting of her supporters in the Patikka village. She lamented that the parliamentary board had deviated from some ‘settled principles’ while awarding party tickets, particularly in Muzaffarabad division. “We hope that the prime minister will stand by us because we have been targeted due to our loyalty to him,” she told this correspondent. In reply to a question, she said her group’s members would not resign from their posts. The party’s president is reported to have said that the tickets had been awarded after thorough consultations but membership of those who had formed the Haqiqi group would not be suspended. Sources say the party may face more difficulties when it announces tickets for the three remaining constituencies, two of which are represented by Health Minister Masood Khalid and Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Deevan Ali Chughtai.