India debunks sham elections in Pakistani Kashmir
12 July 2006
Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi: India Wednesday denounced 'the lack of credibility' in elections held in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Islamabad's claims of self- governance in the Northern Areas. 'Once again the entire exercise shows the lack of credibility of the electoral process in the so- called 'Azad Jammu and Kashmir',' external affairs ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna told reporters. Ridiculing the elections that it said gave the lie to Islamabad's claims of autonomy and self-governance in an area India claims is part of Jammu and Kashmir, the spokesperson went on to detail instances of omissions and commissions in the elections held Tuesday. 'Earlier, nominations of 30 out of 31 candidates of the pro-independence Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front-Amanullah Khan (JKLF) were rejected after they refused to sign the declaration of Kashmir's accession to Pakistan,' Sarna said. 'The 'AJK' Election Commission also rejected 30 nominations of the All Party National Alliance, a coalition of other pro-independence parties of Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit- Baltistan,' he added. Sarna also pointed out that not only did Pakistan bar political parties and candidates who refused to back the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan from contesting the elections, but it also did not permit international observers from monitoring the election process. 'These elections can, therefore, neither be called free and fair nor an exercise in self-governance,' Sarna declared. Blasting holes in Pakistani propaganda of autonomy in the region, Sarna said that 'real power in the province lay with the officials of Pakistan and the ministry of Kashmir affairs in Islamabad.' The 14-member 'AJK Council', the upper house of the area's parliament, is chaired by the Pakistan prime minister and has the 'AJK president' as its vice chairman. Islamabad nominates five members to the council from the members of the Pakistan National Assembly, while there are three ex-officio members. The 'AJK assembly' sends six members. Thus, the chairman, along with the federal nominees, gives the Pakistani government a majority in the council. New Delhi also punctured Islamabad's much-vaulted claims about democracy and self-governance in the Gilgit-Baltistan region where no elections have been held since 1947, and residents are denied basic political rights and subjected to state-sponsored repression. 'The situation in Gilgit-Baltistan, the other part of Pakistan occupied Kashmir, is even worse as it has never had even a semblance of representative institutions,' the spokesperson said. 'Elections have never been held in these areas and the residents do not enjoy the basic political right to vote,' he added.