Protests have erupted all across Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) over anger and resentment at what locals are describing as a rigged July 21 election which saw the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) win 32 out of 41 seats or more than seventy five percent of the seats.
Widespread protests were witnessed today in the major POK towns like Muzaffarabad, Kotli, Chinari and Mirpur after members of the PML (N) killed a supporter of the Muslim Conference (MC) in Muzaffarabad. The protestors burnt tyres, blocked traffic and clashed with police. Several cases of injuries were reported as the POK administration moved to clamp down on press reporting.
The protesters closed all commercial centers in the cities and held demonstrations outside the POK assembly at Muzaffarabad and Government buildings. A leader of the defeated Muslim Conference said, “after rigging elections the PML (N) is now indulging in widespread propaganda and killing. They have killed our friend. If the authorities fail to take any action, they will be responsible for any future incident.”
The PML-N has bagged 31 seats out of the 41 up for grabs, while the Muslim Conference and Pakistan People’s party bagged three seats each. Political parties have questioned the authenticity of the elections. They say public money has been wasted as the so-called democratic process was fraught with corrupt practices and the election results rigged. The Pakistan Human Rights Group has confirmed allegations of corrupt practices, involving money and muscle power.
According to some of the protesters, genuine voters were not allowed to cast their votes and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, and others rigged the polls in favour of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML (N). From Muzaffarabad to Neelum Valley, voters complained that they were not allowed to exercise their franchise. Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhary, Former PoK Prime Minister and Muslim Conference leader said, “There was rigging in the elections and huge money was distributed to buy the votes. In the Mirpur area, there were many such cases of buying of votes.”
Locals allege that elections in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have always been fixed in favour of the federal ruling party. They have very little hope from the new government. One local resident said, “In 2011, Pakistan’s People’s Party formed the government in PoK because it was ruling at that time. It is a joke with the people who exercise their right of vote. Only faces will change but if people think that these recently held elections will bring change for betterment then they are living in a fool’s paradise.” The election process in PoK is nothing but a sham. The ban by the government on independent observers from other countries to oversee the election process tells the real story.