Legislative Assembly Has No Real Power
Chief Editor of POK Newspaper Writes For KZINE
The tenth general election of the Legislative Assembly of Pakistan-administered Jammu and Kashmir has come to an end. The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has won 25 seats and is in a position to form the government. The PPP is in second place with 11 seats, while the ruling PML-N has won only six seats in the region. The so-called state parties, the pro-Pakistan Muslim Conference and the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Party, have won only one seat each.
There are a total of 53 seats in the Legislative Assembly, of which 45 are directly elected. Thirty-three seats consist of constituencies within the geographical boundaries of Pakistan-administered Jammu and Kashmir. Twelve seats are held by refugees from Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan. These constituencies consist of Jammu and Kashmir refugees spread across the four provinces of Pakistan. In refugee constituencies, the Pakistan-administered Jammu and Kashmir Election Commission has the sole authority to deliver ballot papers and compile voter lists. The rest of the election process is completed by the respective district administrations of the four provinces. That is why the only party that succeeds in these constituencies is the one which has a government in the federation and Punjab. The Legislative Assembly has eight reserved seats, including one for technocrats, one for clerics, one for overseas Kashmiris and five for women. Members for these seats are elected by the elected members of the Assembly.
In this region, the only party that has won elections in general is the one that has a government in the federation of Pakistan. The real center of power is the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs. One of the main reasons for this is the use of influence under a specific mechanism to form an opinion in favour of a particular party or group.
Local Government Has No Power
Pakistan-administered Jammu and Kashmir is governed as a colony. All the methods and principles used in the British colonial era are used in the same way here. The Legislative Assembly is exercised by an Act (called the Interim Constitution 1974). The Legislative Assembly has little authority other than to build small roads and carry out other small construction works.Despite a two-thirds majority in the Legislative Assembly, no amendment to the Interim Constitution can be made unless the Prime Minister of Pakistan approves it. The appointment of judges in the high courts also requires the approval of the Prime Minister of Pakistan. In addition to the posts of Class IV, it is also necessary to get financial approval from the Secretary of Finance sent from Pakistan for the creation of posts of all other levels.
The local assembly and the government do not even have the authority to set up a hydel power plant to generate more than 50 megawatts of electricity.
No 4G Internet For Pakistani-Administered Jammu and Kashmir
4G internet is being provided in all four provinces of Pakistan. In Pakistan-Administered Jammu and Kashmir, licenses for 4G internet have not yet been issued to cellular companies. Fortunately, the services in this area are somewhat better than in Afghanistan.
The Legislative Assembly, exercising all its powers, has enacted laws to increase the salaries of Members of the Assembly and to pay lifetime pension to every Member of the Assembly, even if he has been a Member for one day. But the Assembly and the government do not have the capacity to approve a single rupee to provide financial assistance to small traders affected by the Corona epidemic, including day laborers who lost their jobs due to the Corona lockdown abroad. With a population of over four million, the region has no formal source of employment other than the services sector, which has about 90,000 government employees. Out of a budget of Rs 141 billion, a budget of Rs 113 billion is spent on administrative expenses. There is a development budget of Rs 28 billion. Of this, about 80% is received by 53 members of the Assembly in the name of development schemes. Money is earned from these schemes through contracts. The same schemes are used as political bribes in elections.
Govt School Education Being Destroyed To Promote Private PlayersThe development schemes of the government create a bribe-based political layer that plays a key role in keeping regional and tribal leaders in power. Despite 28% of the budget being spent on the education department, due to political interference, dilapidated infrastructure, lack of planning and declining quality of education, a large number of public educational institutions have more teachers than students. A dual game is at play. The business of education is being promoted under the auspices of the government. The educational institutions are being destroyed under a well-thought out plan to pave the way for the privatization of public educational institutions with a large infrastructure.
According to official figures, 10.26% of the 60% youth population is unemployed. The unemployment rate for women is 23.91 percent, according to official figures. Unemployment among young people between the ages of 20 and 30 is more than 25 percent. Apart from the Department of Education and Health, employment opportunities for women are available only in private banks and private educational institutions. After attaining degrees like M.Phil, women are forced to work in private educational institutions on a monthly salary of Rs 5000 to Rs 15,000. Apart from government jobs, the largest source of employment is private educational institutions and small businesses. This includes shops, hotels, and guest houses. The biggest source of employment in the region is the sale of labour abroad. About 1.5 million workers are spread across the Middle East, Europe, the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Africa and other countries. Out of a population of 4 million, an average of 30,000 young people go abroad every year for employment. A large number try to reach Europe and the United States using illegal means. It is on the basis of foreign exchange that private educational institutions and small businesses operate in the region and a ‘consumer society’ is formed.
Dilapidated Health Sector
A large part of the budget is also spent on health. Despite all this, according to official figures, there is one doctor for 3,954 people. According to the same statistics, there is one doctor for every 963 people in Pakistan. Given the dilapidated state of the health sector across Pakistan, one can only guess at the state of health facilities in Kashmir. Even a patient with a minor illness has to travel from Rawalpindi to Islamabad.
In the capitalist system, elections have always been a game of capital. Under normal circumstances, it is capital that decides elections. The working class has the right to elect one representative of the exploiting class every five years in a capitalist democracy. It cannot use this privilege freely because the ruling classes always have the power to influence capital, the media, the curriculum and public opinion in a systematic way. Therefore, in the capitalist system, it is a crime to call elections transparent and fair.
Free and Fair Elections Not Possible
In societies with technological backwardness and historical delays where the tasks of the national democratic revolution have not been fulfilled, free and fair elections cannot be imagined. In societies like Pakistan, there are remnants of feudalism, there are all the prejudices of the past, there is an over-enlarged role of the state. Even the ruling class is historically so incompetent that it has historically built for its own protection. The rulers are compelled to pretend that they are obeying the state. Under this system, it is not possible to build a society on modern political and social lines. These remain colonial territories under the military domination of a powerful state.
Pakistan-administered Jammu and Kashmir is administratively divided into ten districts. It is impossible to provide basic amenities like education, health, transport, employment, housing, clean drinking water and sewerage system to the tribal population in a budget of Rs. 141 billion. No single arrangement has been made for population planning in the last 70 years. Attempts were made to set up government-level housing societies in a few cities, which were marred by political bribery and corruption. None of these housing societies could provide basic services. Dispensaries, schools, primary health centers, water pipes and link roads schemes have been provided as political bribes in a haphazard manner. Till date, no dispensary and primary health center has been operational. A reasonable number of teachers and students do not have access to schools in remote villages, nor can public-private transport be run in a profitable manner despite the construction of link roads in remote villages.
State Influence Decides Elections
The prejudices, beliefs and values of the past are inextricably intertwined with the modern parliamentary system. Parts of Pakistan-administered Kashmir continue to be the fiefdom of the tribes that had settled in certain areas thousands of years ago. Elections in this region are ostensibly held in modern parliamentary style. But the implementation takes place under the tribal, numbering system of the past. In powerful tribes, only those with wealth, power and state blessings remain as electables. There are one or two large tribes in different constituencies. One or two members of these tribes are bestowed with political eminence through specific state intervention. In addition to the support of his tribe, the person who gets the support of the minority tribes in the constituency is declared as the winner in the election. The government of Pakistan is the source of funds and power. Hence the representative of the government gets more support. These people also have the backing of state institutions. If the government gets angry with someone, a similar personality is created to replace the individual.
(Hares Qadir is Chief Editor, Daily Mujadila, Rawalakot, Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir)