After Decades, AJK Votes In Local Elections

On the eve of the first leg of the LG elections, a young boy pastes a poster of a candidate for a seat on the Muzaffarabad Municipal Corporation on a wall in the old city area.

MUZAFFARABAD: After a three-decade wait, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) will hold phased local government elections on Sunday (today), with the first leg taking place in Muzaffarabad division amid concerns about the “minimal security cover” provided by local police personnel.

Senior officials who spoke on Saturday appeared confident that the exercise would be largely peaceful and satisfactory, saying that while approximately 4,500 police officers would man 1,323 polling stations, a Quick Response Force (QRF) of 500 officers would remain on alert at the backend to deal with any emergency.

According to officials, 697,732 voters, including 321,536 females, will exercise their right to vote from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to choose their nominees from 750 wards of urban and rural councils in the three districts of Muzaffarabad division — Neelum, Muzaffarabad, and Jhelum valley — from a field of 2,716 contestants, the majority of whom belong to the ruling PTI and the opposition PPP and PLM-N

In the Muzaffarabad division, approximately 19 candidates have already run unopposed.

Of the 1,323 polling stations, 418 have been designated as “sensitive” and 257 as “most sensitive’’ with three and five police officers assigned to each. According to officials, two police officers are usually stationed at other polling places.

Divisional commissioner Masoodur Rahman dispelled the notion that security arrangements were inadequate, stating that the division had been divided into 11 zones, 130 sectors, and 64 QRF points, each of which would be led by senior police and administration officials with first-class magistrate powers.

In addition to the QRF, an internal security framework is in place and may be activated if the situation warrants," he said, referring to sections 129 and 130 of the criminal procedure code, which allow district administration to call in army personnel in the event of an emergency.

He stated that polling staff and polling materials had arrived at their respective polling stations in the company of police officers.

He expressed his appreciation for the candidates’ and their supporters’ sense of responsibility thus far and expressed hope that they would continue to do so on election day. “I assure the public that security measures are adequate, leaving little room for anyone to seize control of the law.” They should go to their polling places with complete confidence and vote without fear.”

He made it clear that rioters and troublemakers, regardless of affiliation, would face criminal charges, which could lead to the candidate’s disqualification under the applicable laws.

To “avoid any inconvenience,” the commissioner also advised residents of other areas not to travel to Muzaffarabad division on Sunday.


The last LG polls in AJK were held in 1991, and each government has run LG institutions through ‘administrators,’ either government servants or party workers, since 1995, when the next polls became due.

The issue of LG polls had been pending in the AJK’s superior courts since the early days of the previous PML-N government. Following protracted legal proceedings, the AJK Supreme Court directed the government in December last year to make plans for LG elections in August 2022 based on the 2017 census.

However, in July of this year, the AJK Supreme Court reviewed the deadline on the government’s request and directed it to hold LG polls by October 15, after which the election commission set September 28 as the polling date. The PPP and PML-N then requested another extension until March 2023, but the Supreme Court denied the request and extended the deadline until November 30. While the commission then set Nov 27 as the date for polling across AJK, it was due to Islamabad’s refusal to provide an additional 40,000 personnel that the commission announced a phase-wise election for Muzaffarabad, Poonch, and Mirpur divisions on Nov 27, Dec 3, and Dec 8, respectively.

The decision drew criticism from the opposition, who claimed that the lack of adequate security arrangements could lead to violence, but AJK Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas did not strongly object because he did not want the exercise to be derailed.