(An excerpt from article “PaK: Ethnicity, Democracy and Islam” taken from book titled “Of Occupation and Resistance, Writings from Kashmir”)
By Mazhar Iqbal
One of the tales used as an example of the success of democracy in PaK has to do with the continuity of elections. In 2011, Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan’s ruling Muslim Conference was almost wiped out in an election exercise. Until then, this party was considered unbreakable and unbeatable due to its so-called role in the fight for freedom against the Hindu rulers. Those who do not have a close eye on the politics of this region viewed the change as just one more gimmick in the continuous chain of tricks that Pakistan has been playing since the beginning.
In just the Jammu and Kashmir region alone, there are more than 25 political parties, including local branches of mainstream Pakistani political parties who regularly participate in the elections. This democratic process is in place to show a smooth running of affairs. However, no political party that openly advocates independence for Jammu and Kashmir or any political view challenging Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan, can participate in elections.
In this regard, the Interim Act of 1974 says that ‘no person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to the ideology of the state’s accession to Pakistan.’ Under section 5 (2) (vii) of the Legislative Assembly Election Ordinance 1970, ‘a person will be disqualified for propagating any opinion or action in any manner prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan, the ideology of state’s accession to Pakistan, or the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan.’ In other words, without signing a sworn statement of allegiance to Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan, nobody is allowed to take part in the legislative assembly elections.