Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan Niazi, the newly-elected prime minister of Azad Jammu Kashmir, hails from Dara Sher Khan, a village along the Line of Control (LoC). A scion of the Mughal clan, Niazi has narrowly escaped Indian shelling from across the LoC several times during his 41-year-long political career.
Niazi was an unlikely choice for the premiership, as heavyweights – Sardar Tanveer Ilyas and Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry – were the top two contenders for the PM’s post. However, Niazi was chosen as the 13th PM of AJK as he was an acceptable option to the Tanveer Ilyas and Barrister Sultan groups.
His nomination by Prime Minister Imran Khan was also a policy statement regarding strict accountability, good governance, and the importance of the Kashmir issue.
Niazi started his political career at the age of 22 in 1982 as a district councillor of Poonch district, Azad Kashmir. His family belonged to the Muslim Conference and his father was also a member of the district council. The new AJK PM entered politics after the death of his father.
It is an interesting story regarding his title of 'Niazi'. His namesake is former AJK president Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan, hence, there was always confusion in press statements and official correspondence. Qayyum then asked Niazi to take up a nickname or a title to avoid such complications. Subsequently, Niazi was added to his name and it has earned him much fame.
Niazi entered parliamentary politics in 2006 and became a member of the local legislative assembly on a ticket of the Muslim Conference. From 2006 to 2011, he held the portfolio of finance and prisons.
In 2016, he lost the election with a narrow margin. However, the party leadership did not take his complaints seriously. The party's attitude prompted him to quit the Muslim Conference and join the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
'Living along the LoC'
Niazi has narrowly escaped Indian shelling along the border many times as he took care of the injured during episodes of Indian aggression. He also never left his village as his constituency was along the LoC and he believed that leaving the villagers to their fate in the face of Indian shelling would affect the morale of the people.
After PTI came to power, Niazi demanded bunkers and better healthcare facilities for the people living along the LoC. He also urged the federal government to provide health cards to the people living along the LoC.
Over the course of his political career, Niazi has always propagated unity among the tribes and discouraged factionalism. Despite belonging to the third largest community in his constituency, the AJK PM has managed to win the trust of other groups and tribes.
In the AJK elections earlier this month, he won the confidence of all communities with more than 24,500 votes.
His elder brother, Sardar Ghulam Mustafa, has served as a member and minister of the Azad Kashmir Assembly twice in 1985 and 1995. His other brother, Sardar Habib Zia, is a Supreme Court lawyer while his third brother is based in the US. His son is consular in the UK.
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