AJK Polls: Major Parties Stand Fragmented
28 May 2006
The News International
Islamabad: Fragmentation has beleaguered major political parties of Azad Kashmir before the elections to the state legislative assembly. The split will take its toll in the final outcome of the electoral exercise being carried out on the ruins and rubble of last October's killer earthquake. The ruling Muslim Conference is beset with serious internal conflicts and confrontation. Sardar Attique, who has called the shot in awarding party tickets to his choice candidates, is bracing himself for the top slot of Azad Kashmir in case the Muslim Conference wins the battle. He is unsurprisingly buoyed up with the support of Pakistan Muslim League (PML) President Ch Shujaat Hussain, who has stated that the Muslim Conference represents his party in Azad Kashmir. He thinks that this will also attract votes to his party because voters have got the message that he is the man to be in power after the elections. But it will not be an easy sailing as it appears to some at the moment. While facing veterans like Sardar Sikandar Hayat, the task becomes too gruelling. Sikandar has the history of throwing a monkey wrench into Attique's plans more than once in the past. Even now, all is not well between the two though on the face of it they may be sounding comfortable. Nearly half a dozen ministers loyal to Sikandar have rebelled against Attique after ticket was refused to them. The have-nots have formed 'Haqeeqi' Muslim Conference and are set to contest the elections as independents. Sikandar and Attique are old rivals within the Muslim Conference that has experienced division more than once because of their clashing pursuits. Attique is acting intelligently as he has started building up his position well in time. If a majority of his ticket-holders are returned to assembly, he would be in a comfortable position to clinch the coveted office for the first time in his political career. His father, Sardar Abdul Qayyum, had been president and prime minister of Azad Kashmir a number of times. Well before the crisis hit the Muslim Conference, the People's Party Azad Kashmir encountered division as Barrister Sultan Mehmood said goodbye to it and formed his People's Muslim League. He has put himself as the main contender for the position of the prime minister. He hopes to bag People's Party vote. However, at the end of the day the Muslim Conference and People's Party are likely to emerge as the key fores.