MC unable to find a candidate: AJK presidential election
16 July 2006
Muzaffarabad: The ruling Muslim Conference (MC) seems to be in a fix as to who it should nominate for the office of AJK president after newly elected lawmakers have failed to reach consensus on any candidate. It is learnt that the authorities who matter are reportedly favouring Raja Zulqarnain Khan, though outgoing Prime Minister Sardar Sikandar Hayat is also reported to be interested in entering the presidentís house for a second time. Mr Khan, whose father-in-law was a general, enjoys good relations with senior army officials who are supporting him. Mr Khan began his political career with the Jammu Kashmir Liberation League, but joined the MC in 1985. He has served as member of the Legislative Assembly and minister in MC governments in 1985-90 and 1991-96, and as member of the AJK Council from 1996 to 2001. However, majority of the MCís MLAs-elect oppose his candidature owing to his alleged anti-MC role in recent elections. Mr Khan, who is above 65, is said to have played a key role in the defeat of Works Minister Chaudhry Tariq Farooq, who contested the election as an MC candidate from LA 7, Bhimber-III. Mr Khan addressed election campaign meetings of Peopleís Muslim Leagueís Chaudhry Anwarul Haq and influenced his Rajput community to vote for him, according to people of the area. The term of incumbent President Sardar Mohammad Anwar Khan expires on Aug 25 and the election commission has announced schedule for the presidential elections. Polling will be held on July 27. Prime Minister Hayat, 75, believes he deserves to be nominated for the top post since he had facilitated the success of several MC candidates, including all five from his Kotli district. According to insiders, the outgoing premier has been asked not to press his candidature in his own interest. The sources say the accountability bureau may initiate action against him if he insisted on his nomination. According to sources, a group of MLAs-elect has suggested the name of MC secretary-general Shah Ghulam Qadir for the post. Mr Qadir, 50, according to his supporters, has for his international exposure, communication skills in Urdu, English and Kashmiri and appreciable knowledge of the Kashmir issue. His supporters believe that being a Kashmiri-speaking politician like Mr Qadir can also help promote the peace process and strengthen bonds between the divided parts of Kashmir. The sources said that another group had floated the name of Chaudhry Mohammad Yousaf, the MLA-elect from Dadyal (Mirpur), for the office reportedly with support from the Chaudhrys of Gujrat. Nomination papers will be filed on July 26. The electoral college comprises 49 members of the AJK assembly and six members of the AJK Council.