Altaf Hamid Rao
Bye-election to Mirpur (LA-3) seat of Azad Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly held on Sunday in, what independent observers say, a free, fair and peaceful atmosphere. Polling started at 8.00 in the morning and continued till the stipulated 5.00 in the evening without any pause. The seat had fallen vacant following the disqualification of the AJK’s incumbent ruling (PML – N) party’s MLA and minister Chaudhry Muhammad Saeed by the Supreme Court of Azad Jammu & Kashmir in a contempt of court case on September 25 this year. Saeed had been elected as the AJK LA member in July 2016 elections to the State Legislative Assembly from the seat of ‘N’.
A total of 14 candidates were in the run in the election. Prominent among the contestants included PTI’s nominee Barrister Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry, (former Prime Minister of AJK) and PML – N’s Ch. Sohaib Saeed (the son of former law-maker Ch. Muhammad Saeed). PPP (AJK unit), AJK Muslim Conference and Jamaat e Islami had not fielded their respective candidates in the elections. Most of rest of the candidates in the run were independent candidates.
Independent observers terms the holding of this bye-election in most peaceful, free, fair and transparent environment unprecedented in the electoral history of this Jaat-dominated constituency. Both of the close contestants including PTI’s Barrister Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry and PML N’s Sohaib Saeed Chaudhry belong to the same Jaat tribe. The constituency contains total of 59494 registered voters including 32490 male and 27004 female voters.
An attractive turn-out of voters was found exercising their right of to elect their representative to the incumbent State Legislative Assembly for rest of its constitutional period ending in July 2021. AJK Election Commission had made adequate arrangements establishing a total of 119 polling stations including 49 male, 47 female and 23 joint polling stations to facilitate the electorates to use their right of vote.