ISLAMABAD: A pitched political battle will be waged in Azad Kashmir, overshadowing other important political issues, including planned negotiations on Panama Leaks between the government and the opposition till after the election.
Currently, the ruling PML-N seems too busy bracing for the Azad Kashmir political battlefield to care for anything else. Background discussions with party insiders suggested that the top leadership of N-League believes that the Panama Leaks issue should be relegated to backburner till the elections in the Azad Kashmir are held on July 21.
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In a related development, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is learnt to have convened a special meeting of the federal cabinet at the Governor House in Lahore on Friday (July 15) to discuss the deteriorating security situation in Indian-administered Kashmir following Indian atrocities that claimed over 30 lives so far.
Following extensive consultations in Lahore, the party leadership decided to deal ‘one core issue at a time’, instead of opening up too many fronts.
“Opening up multiple fronts is not an advisable option. General elections (in Azad Kashmir) necessitate the urgency to act instantly. Panama Leaks is … a ‘long-term’ issue and it can wait,” commented a source privy to the discussions.
“We need to balance the equation,” the PML-N leader said, adding that the premier’s visit to Azad Kashmir ahead of the polls was on the cards.
Key leaders in PML-N camp heaved a sigh of relief after Imran Khan’s London visit on the same day the premier landed back home. Referring to Panama Leaks, an office-bearer of the PML-N’s Punjab chapter, who requested anonymity, said: “We are not in a hurry, and so isn’t everybody else.”
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President PML-N’s Azad Kashmir chapter Raja Farooq Haider told The Express Tribune that his party’s policy to prefer the polls over other political issues was justified given the gravity of the situation. “The political tug-of-war is in full swing in Azad Kashmir.
Similarly, other mainstream political parties, including the PPP and the PTI, are also pushing for making electoral gains.
“The PML-N is the strongest contender … and … we will emerge victorious,” Haider said.
Asked if other political issues were being ignored, Haider said: “There is a time for everything. Every matter will be taken up in due course.”
The government planned to enter into backdoor negotiations with the opposition over not including prime minister’s name in the terms of reference (ToRs) being framed by the Parliamentary Committee on Panama Papers. Any headway in this regard is not expected before the Azad Kashmir polls.
In the 48-seat Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly, elections are being held on 41 direct seats, of which 12 seats of Occupied Kashmir refugees are in Pakistan. Nine of these seats are in Punjab, which the PML-N is eyeing to secure, including two seats in Rawalpindi district and one each in Islamabad, Lahore, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Sialkot, Narowal and Multan.
Meanwhile, there are two seats in Sindh (Karachi) and one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Peshawar).
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2016.
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