Marred by controversies since the beginning of the election process, the race has intensified among contenders of the top slots, including the new Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) prime minister, with money seemingly playing a more pivotal role than any other merit.
The newly-elected legislators of the AJK legislative assembly will elect the leader of the House on July 26.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has emerged as the single largest party after winning 22 seats so far. The PPP also expects to win one or two more general seats where elections are pending, while it will grab six of eight reserved seats in the legislature.
In the 49-member House, the PPP stands in a comfortable position to form its government even without the support of any party.
As the election process nears its culmination, with at least five to six contenders for the office of the prime minister, including Chaudhry Yasin, Barrister Sultan Mehmood and PPP AJK chapter president Chaudhry Majeed.
Islamabad and Rawalpindi are rife with reports of money deals between some contenders and top stakeholders.
Background interaction with important personalities in power corridors revealed that these dealings are not taking place inside the country but ad hoc and frenzied activity is taking place in London to keep such deals secret.
A large number of Kashmiris, mainly from Mirpur and Kotli districts, are based in the UK and affluent among them are the main financers of some top Kashmiri leaders, particularly the three names in the race for the seat of prime minister.
The term of the current AJK legislative assembly will expire on July 23. The members elected for the new assembly will take oath on July 25 and elect the new speaker and the deputy speaker the same day. A day before their oath, the assembly will elect members on the reserved seats.
On July 26, the assembly will elect the new leader of the House – the prime minister will take oath of his office the same day in the afternoon.
On July 24, an important meeting will be held in the federal capital to decide important portfolios for the next AJK government. Jointly chaired by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, PPP leaders including Faryal Talpur, Manzoor Wattoo, Syed Khurshid Shah, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Jahangir Badr and Qamar Zaman Qaira will make the final decisions regarding the important posts for the government.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2011.