Political musings: Barrister Sultan accuses PML-N of foul play in election

PPP central leader Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry. PHOTO: FILE

PPP central leader Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: By opening the floodgates of money, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) managed to swing the Azad Kashmir election results in its favour, according to a top PTI stalwart.

This contention was made by PTI president in AJK Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry during an informal chat with The Express Tribune.

Billions of rupees were pumped in for the “unprecedented foul play in Azad Kashmir’s history”, he claims.

“The amount of (seemingly) endless money circulated in the Azad Kashmir to buy votes by switching loyalties against PTI and in favour of PML-N is unique.”

Sultan, a former AJK prime minister, spoke his heart out on a number of issues involving Azad Kashmir’s political situation in the wake of PTI’s crushing defeat, contrary to expectations.

Sultan himself a seasoned regional politician and a seven-time winner of the seat, lost to PML-N’s Chaudhry Saeed.

In the 49-seat AJK Legislative Assembly, the lower house, general elections were held on 41 direct seats, 12 of which fall in Pakistan under refugee quota from Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK), on July 21.

The PML-N bagged 31 seats against PTI’s two seats. Three seats were won by both the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Muslim Conference (MC). One seat was clinched by the Jammu Kashmir People’s Party (JKPP) and an independent candidate.

On reserved seats, PML-N bagged five out of eight seats, ending up with 36 of 49 seats.

“This did not happen out of the blue. A well thought-out conspiracy was hatched to steal PTI’s mandate,” Sultan insisted. “It is not as if they (PML-N) were really popular or people wanted to vote for them. It is just that they had the power and resources to rig the elections and they did that by distributing money exceeding billions of rupees,” the chief of PTI AJK said.

PTI entered the electoral race for Azad Kashmir Assembly for the first time in the recent general polls, striking an electoral alliance with Muslim Conference (MC) which was once the largest party of the valley.

The Muslim Conference managed to pick up only three seats, despite a seat adjustment mechanism with the PTI. On the other hand, the PML-N entered into electoral alliances with the Jamaat-e-Islami and JKPP.

Needless to say, the biggest upset of this election was the defeat of all-time winner Barrister Sultan Mehmood at the hands of a little-known PML-N candidate from his native constituency, Mirpur.

Confident of his victory, Sultan vacated his legislative assembly seat only to re-secure it after joining the PTI.

The veteran politician cannot understand what happened in the course of a year that led to his unexpected defeat. “Can you even believe that I can lose a seat and that too from my home constituency in less than a year after securing the same seat? Is it even possible, logically?” he asked.

“The truth is; money makes the mare go. And that’s exactly what happened in the (recent) elections. This was not a genuine election but a sorry tale of stealing and snatching of the public mandate. I wonder if this has ever happened anywhere in the world.”

It has been a traditionally practiced norm in the AJK that the ruling party at the Centre forms the government there. Although leaderships of PTI and PPP succeeded in staging impressive shows in their rallies, but they failed to translate it in electoral victories.

The PPP, which had been the ruling party in Azad Kashmir for the past five years, suffered a rout. Local people consider the egregious misgovernance of the party’s officials as the reason for its poor performance in the elections.

Political experts, however , are baffled by PTI’s performance which was able to secure only two seats and those too reserved for the refugees — one from Lahore and the other from Peshawar.

Not a single PTI candidate could win from any of the direct seats in Azad Kashmir. Even its alliance with the MC could not do any wonders.

Sultan went on to accuse the PML-N government of doling out “not less than Rs4 billion” through its election cell to buy votes — a trend, he says is new to the area where traditionally people used to follow their clan affiliations in voting.

According to him, the PML-N’s election cell, led by federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Barjees Tahir, “initially released Rs2 billion via Kashmir Council, in the name of development funds”.

These funds, he said, were subsequently distributed through party’s candidates instead of using them through local governments, he alleged.

The most blatant violation of electoral code of conduct, the PTI AJK supremo said, was distribution of another cache of “Rs2 billion on July 19 and 20, just a day before elections”.

Sultan said his party is planning to issue a ‘white paper’ next week with evidence to substantiate those claims. Moreover, PTI also plans to challenge the results of certain constituencies in AJK Election Commission.

Sultan’s party already disputes the appointment of a serving Chief Justice of AJK High Court (Justice Mustafa Mughal) as the Chief Election Commissioner.

Original news : http://tribune.com.pk/story/1162671/political-musings-barrister-sultan-accuses-pml-n-foul-play-election/