ISLAMABAD: Lack of good governance in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and absence of any development roadmap for future are believed to be the major reasons behind the humiliating defeat of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) in AJK general elections-an apparent scenario that has weakened Maryam Nawaz's position not only within the party but also among opposition ranks.
Background discussions with senior leaders of major political parties suggest that Maryam Nawaz was hopeful that PML-N would cash in on the setbacks PTI faced in recent by-elections in Pakistan. "Her election campaign mainly relied on 'incumbency factor'-that PTI is in power at the centre, and its recent defeat in by-elections indicated that people were not happy with the incumbent government. But little did she know that incumbency factor applied more in AJK where PML-N was in power for five years and governance standards were just horrible," said a PML-N leader, requesting anonymity.
The source said Maryam Nawaz had hardly anything to offer to AJK voters in PML-N's election campaign and so she resorted to personal attacks against Prime Minister Imran Khan and his family members.
"And on the top of that, she tried to build the perception that PM Khan 'sold' Kashmir to India. She also went to the extent of accusing PTI government of trying to make AJK a province of Pakistan. People were not ready to buy any of this. In response to personal attacks, PTI also launched personal attacks against Maryam and her immediate family members however the public found PTI's allegation that Indian PM Narendra Modi is a personal friend of Nawaz Sharif - Modi landed in Lahore to attend Sharif's granddaughter's wedding when Sharif was the Premier (in December 2015) - more believable," the source said.
Speaking to Business Recorder, senior PTI leader and Speaker Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Mushtaq Ahmed Ghani said PM Khan focussed on his development agenda in PTI's election campaign for AJKL polls. "KP has close proximity to AJK. People of AJK knew it well that PTI is the only party in the history of Pakistan that formed a government in KP for the second consecutive time only because of its performance. People of KP never gave a second chance to any political party before PTI. Sehat Sahulat Programme, reforms in education and health sector and other initiatives are for everyone to see. While other political parties had practically nothing to offer to voters in their respective election campaigns in AJK," he said.
Tough electoral battle was expected mainly between PTI and PML-N in AJK polls held on July 25. However, PML-N ended up third, having secured only six seats, lagging behind Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) with 11 seats and 25 seats bagged by PTI out of 45 direct seats of AJK Legislative Assembly, unofficial results, till Monday afternoon, indicated. PML-N sources said PPP AJK chapter chief Chaudhry Latif Akbar played major role in securing seats for his political party.
On the other hand, outgoing PM AJK Raja Farooq Haider, who is also PML-N AJK President, is said to have adopted a laidback approach while Maryam Nawaz was allowed to call the shots in AJK election campaign.
Sensing that PML-N was not in position to give a tough time to PTI in AJK polls, N-League's chief Shehbaz Sharif quietly distanced himself from the election campaign, sources said. "Shehbaz's disinterest can be witnessed from the fact that he did not visit AJK during the PML-N's entire election campaign. He played it wisely and let Maryam face the embarrassment of PML-N's defeat in AJK polls. After this episode, Shehbaz group has gained more influence within PML-N. It is even more embarrassing for Maryam that PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari gave very little time to AJK and went to the United States-but still PPP took more seats in the polls than PML-N," said a PML-N lawmaker, on strict condition of anonymity.
Senior PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah, who is regarded as one of the most trusted aides of Shehbaz, denied that Shehbaz did not visit AJK due to disinterest towards elections. "It was the strategy that he (Shehbaz) will focus on PML-N elections campaign on those seats of AJK Legislative Assembly that fall in Pakistan while Maryam Nawaz would focus on constituencies falling in AJK," he told Business Recorder.
"PML-N rejects results of massively rigged elections-our workers and leaders were arrested and voters were intimidated. We would formulate a strategy, in alliance with other opposition parties, against government's highhandedness," he said.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021