Victor party in session : Farooq Haider picked for coveted PM slot in AJK

Legislative Assembly’s speaker, his deputy and cabinet members will be announced after July 29.

Sardar Sikander/APP July 28, 2016
PM Nawaz Sharif chairing the meeting of PML-N AJK chapter. PHOTO: INP

ISLAMABAD: After winning a thumping victory in the general elections of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz on Wednesday nominated Raja Farooq Haider for the coveted office of prime minister of the semi-autonomous region.

Haider’s election is a forgone conclusion since the PML-N won 31 seats in the 49-member AJK Legislative Assembly in last week’s polls. Haider will be replacing Pakistan People Party’s Chaudhry Abdul Majeed as 12th prime minister of AJK. He will be the first prime minister of the PML-N in the region.

Haider was nominated for the top position in a meeting of the PML-N parliamentary committee, chaired by Nawaz Sharif at the Prime Minister House. All the 31 MLAs-elect of the party attended the meeting. PML-N’s central leaders, including Raja Zafarul Haq, Ishaq Dar, Birjees Tahir, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Saad Rafique and Khawaja Asif were also in attendance.

After the meeting unanimously nominated Haider, who is also president of PML-N’s AJK chapter, Premier Nawaz, in his capacity as the party’s central president, endorsed and approved the decision.

Speaking on the occasion, Nawaz described the Kashmir dispute as ‘unfinished agenda’ of the 1947 partition saying Pakistan would continue to extend political and moral support to Kashmiris in their struggle for the right to self-determination.

“Self-determination is the basic right of Kashmiris in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution,” he said, adding that Pakistan would highlight the Kashmir issue at all international forums.

He felicitated the MLAs-elect on their electoral triumph and urged them to focus on extending support to ‘their brethren’ in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). He also called upon the MLAs-elect to ensure strong institutions and graft-free and merit-based governance in the region.

“Our mandate is of progress and prosperity, and we will extend all-out support to the new AJK government to pursue this agenda,” he added. The development projects to be carried out in Kashmir would be of same high standard as in Pakistan.

Earlier on Sunday, the PML-N Parliamentary Committee in AJK nominated Haider as the party’s parliamentary leader in the Legislative Assembly in its meeting held in Muzaffarabad.

The parliamentary committee’s meeting on Wednesday also discussed names for the slot of the new AJK president. However, it decided to defer the process till a later date, considering that more than a month is still left in expiry of AJK’s incumbent President Sardar Yaqoob’s tenure.

Sources privy to discussion in the meeting told The Express Tribune that three names – Masood Khan, Chaudhry Tariq Farooq and Sardar Khalid Ibrahim – were considered for the slot of AJK president.

Reportedly, the option to ‘accommodate’ Khalid Ibrahim as Sardar Yaqoob’s successor was discussed. Ibrahim does not belong to the PML-N, but he contested the general elections in alliance with the party from the platform of Jammu Kashmir People’s Party (JKPP).

However, majority of the participants were said to have put their weight behind Masood Khan, who may be AJK’s favourite presidential candidate.

Sources said the candidates for other positions – including that of the Legislative Assembly’s speaker and deputy speaker, ministers and advisers – would be finalised after July 29, when elections on the eight reserved seats are scheduled.  The reserved seats include five for women and one each for religious scholars, technocrats and Kashmiri diaspora.

“There is a possibility that some winners of the reserved seats will be inducted in the cabinet. This is why the cabinet would be completed after July 29 and portfolios would be officially announced then,” said a senior PML-N leader, on the condition of anonymity.

“Given our strong position in the Legislative Assembly, it can be safely said that we will manage to secure at least seven of the total eight seats,” he claimed

He said there was also a possibility that Chaudhry Ali Shan – the lone independent candidate who secured his seat from Bhimber – could be inducted in the cabinet or given any important responsibility.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Haider later said he was thankful to Premier Nawaz for assigning him the important responsibility, and to the people of AJK and Pakistan for giving his party the mandate to outrival everyone else. “We would leave no stone unturned to live up to peoples’ expectations,” he added.

Taking about his priorities, Haider said the worsening situation in IOK needs immediate attention. “Highlighting the rising Indian forces’ atrocities in the IOK will be our foremost preference,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2016.


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