The general elections in Azad Jammu and Kashmir Election to elect members of the Legislative Assembly will be held on Sunday, July 25.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz campaigned aggressively during the elections and levelled allegations against one another. Now all eyes are on the ballot as people exercise their right to vote in the territory.
Over 3.02 million registered voters both male and female in all 33 constituencies of Azad Jammu and Kashmir including 12 constituencies for Pakistan-based J&K refugees to elect the 53-seat AJK Legislative Assembly for a five-year term.
The polling will start at 8:00 AM in the morning and will continue till 5:00 PM without any interval. The registered voters shall have to produce original CNIC at the polling station at the time of exercising the right to vote.
There are 724 candidates from 32 political and religious parties are contesting for the 45 general seats. Only 20 women candidates are contesting elections from general seats.
There are eight reserved seats including five for women and three seats, one each for religious scholars, technocrats, and overseas Kashmiris. The members for these seats will be nominated after the elections.
Out of 45 general seats, 12 seats are reserved for Kashmiri refugees who had migrated from Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and are settled in various parts of Pakistan.
The Pakistan Army, civil armed forces with the coordination of the local law-enforcement agencies including AJK police, Punjab constabulary, KP and Frontier Constabulary will be deployed in all 45 constituencies to assist civil administration for maintaining law and order.
Major political parties
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has fielded 45 candidates and is seen as a favourite to form the next government. In the 2016 elections, the party could win only two seat but the chances have been bolstered after it now has the federal government.
Former AJK prime minister Barrister Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry is the strong candidate to head the next government. He is contesting from his stronghold Mirpur.
Sardar Tanveer Ilyas, who is currently serving as an Adviser to the Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar, is contesting from Bagh district and is also a likely candidate.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is currently ruling the AJK. During the 2016 polls, it won 31 seats and formed the government.
PML-N is contesting polls on 44 seats led by Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider. He is an outspoken politician and is contesting from Muzaffarabad, capital of AJK.
Another senior party leader, and Speaker of the AJK Assembly, Shah Ghulam Qadir is contesting from two seats from Neelam Valley near the Line of Control (LoC)
Noreen Arif, a PML-N candidate from Muzaffarabad, is the only woman politician who has been elected to the state assembly twice through direct elections in 2011 and 2016.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has fielded 44 candidates. It won the 2011 elections when it was ruling Islamabad. Former AJK President Sardar Yaqoob Khan and former minister Chaudhry Latif Akbar are leading the campaign for the party in the region.
Akbar is in a strong position to win his seat from Muzaffarabad, Yaqoob is contesting from two seats in Rawlakot and is facing a tough challenge from PTI and PML-N candidates. The PPP has ruled the region four times
Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference
Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference is the oldest political party of the undivided Jammu and Kashmir, which was formed in 1931 in Srinagar, capital of IIOJK It has also ruled the region four times.
During the 2011 elections, the Muslim Conference lost a major chunk of voters. In the 2016 elections, it won only two seats.
Led by former AJK prime minister Sardar Atiq Ahmad Khan, the party has fielded 42 candidates in the forthcoming elections. Atiq’s hometown Bagh is considered the party’s stronghold.
PTI emerges as front-runner
According to a survey of Gallup Pakistan, the PTI has emerged as the most popular party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and is set to win the general elections.
The report states that 44 percent of people think that PTI will win the election while PML-N has 12 percent and PPP 9 percent popularity. Both PML-N and PPP have collective 21 percent popularity as compared to 44 percent of PTI, the survey said.
Over 500 people participated in the survey and all 10 districts of AJK were covered. The survey said 94 percent of respondents are likely to vote in the upcoming election while 6 percent have no intention to vote.
Prime Minister Imran Khan appeared as the “most trusted” political leader with 67 percent positive rating. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto has 49 percent popularity followed by Shahbaz Sharif with 48 percent. Maryam Nawaz has only 44 percent popularity, the survey further said.
Moreover, 53 percent of respondents believe that the elections will be free and fair. 30 percent think that they will not be transparent while 17% are unsure. The tradition also shows that the party ruling Islamabad wins elections in Muzaffarabad.