Azad Kashmir govt gets new lease of life

25 August 2009
The Dawn
Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: The fragile AJK government led by Sardar Yaqoob Khan got a new lease of life after it accepted a ten-point charter of demands put forth by Jammu Kashmir Muslim League headed by Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry. Informed sources said the possible political upheaval in the AJK triggered by the appointment of senior PPP AJK leader Chaudhry Mohammad Yasin as adviser on local government was settled down after the charge was handed over to Sardar Naeem of Muslim Conference (forward bloc) and other demands of the protesting allies were also accepted. Differences had cropped up in the ruling alliance when two main allies of AJK premier Sardar Yaqoob - the Muslim Conference (MC) forward bloc led by Sardar Farooq Haider and People's Muslim League led by former prime minister Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry - threatened to part ways with the government over the appointment of Mr Yasin as adviser. The sources said under the relevant rules no un-elected person can write a note on any official file. They said the AJK prime minister had promised that no file would be sent to Mr Yasin who is believed to have been appointed under pressure from the PPP government at the centre. The appointment, however, raised many eyebrows with components of the ruling coalition expressing serious concerns over the move. The disgruntled allies were of the view that a non-elected person should not be appointed as an adviser with the status of a minister having executive powers. Moreover, these parties had also reservations on what they called undue interference of the federal ministers in the affairs of their state. Three ministers belonging to PML and seven belonging to MC forward bloc along with the speaker legislative assembly, Shah Ghulam Qadir, had submitted resignations to their respective leadership. Sources said some federal ministers were trying to forge a new ruling alliance in AJK under which Chaudhry Majeed, the president of AJK PPP, was to replace Mr Yaqoob as new prime minister and Sardar Attique was to be accommodated as new president of AJK. In this situation, Mr Yaqoob had two options either to advise the AJK president to dissolve the legislative assembly and call mid-term elections or succumb to demands of his disgruntled allies. He chose the second option to save his government. A close-door meeting was held at the residence of Barrister Sultan in Islamabad on Monday night, where it was decided that Chaudhry Yasin would remain adviser on local government but without any executive authority. Moreover, it was also decided that the premier would accommodate Sardar Naeem Khan, an MLA and brother of senior MC leader Sardar Sikendar Hayat Khan, as minister for rural development. The AJK prime minister also assured his disgruntled allies that in future he would not accept any interference by federal government beyond rules of business set laid down under AJK Interim Constitution 1974 and that he had no intentions to advise dissolution of legislative assembly.