The neighbour in predicament

By K.N. Pandita, Daily Excelsior India, Feb 15, 1999 – In a sense we have been ungenerous to the people in POK. We seldom talk of their travails. If we continue to do that, the people in that part of the occupied Kashmir will feel they are not considered by us as the integral part of our State. This impression needs to be dispelled, and sooner we do it the better.

For example, how many among our political commentators and scribes reflected on the high drama that was enacted in the POK Legislative Assembly in June last? How many of us tried to understand the lament of the speaker and the deputy speaker both of whom were ousted in a huff? After all, we as the protagonists of democracy and pluralism, have to prove that this is our universal belief and that we do not think in terms of any particular people only.

On June 19 1998, Raja Mumtaz Hussain Rathore, Chairman of PP (N), and Raja Asrar Ahmad Abbasi were removed from the offices of speaker and deputy speaker, respectively, of POK Legislative Assembly through no-confidence motions passed with more than two-third majority in Muzaffarabad.

The no-confidence motions against the two, filed by the treasury benches on June 12, were the only item on the agenda of Friday’s (19 June 1998) session which met amid extreme tension as well as clashes between the police and supporters of Mr. Rathore. However, Mr. Rathore himself stayed away from the assembly proceedings. According the rules, when a no-confidence motion is moved against speaker or the deputy speaker, he cannot chair a session of no-confidence motion.

The deputy speaker, Raja Asrar Ahmad Abbasi, was present in the house and he objected to the process whereby Sardar Khalid Ibrahim was elected to preside over the session. The ruling PP had 32 MLAs and its allies, excluding Sardar Khalid, four MLAs from Muslim Conference (Qayyum) three from the Muslim Conference (Sikandar) and two from the PP (N) attended the session.

The Jamaat-e-Islami’s lone member and its chief, Abdur Rashid Turabi, also stayed away while Ms Nasreen Arif of MC (S) could not attend the session because roads were blocked by PP (N) activists. First a recitation from the Holy Quran was made. Thereafter Minister for zakat and ushr, Chacha Ali Muhammad and NMLA Sayyid Shaukat Naqvi read out the text of the no-confidence motion against the speaker and the deputy speaker, following which the House approved them for debate and voting. Speaking on the motions, Chaudhry Tariq Farooq, Mallick Nawaz and Dr. Najeeb Naqvi of MC (Q) said that although the exercise was part of democracy, it should have been avoided at this stage in view of Kashmir freedom movement, to create an atmosphere of unity and harmony in the ‘liberated territory’.

They regretted that the Assembly had not discussed situation arising out of nuclear blasts conducted by the two countries of the subcontinent.

One MC (Q) MLA and former minister, Ali Khan Chaghtai, however, condemned the motions and said Mr. Rathore had run the House efficiently and said he could not understand why action was being taken against him. Deputy speaker Raja Asrar Ahmad Abbasi made an impressive speech wherein he threw light on “execesses” of the police and district administration. He accused the government of degrading the legislature through its “unlawful, unethical, non-political and terrorist” action.

But more significant is the background story that led to the ouster of the two important functionaries of the Legislative Assembly, namely the speaker and the deputy speaker. The Speaker, Raja Mumtaz Hussain Rathore had informed the President of POK that he would not preside over the session from June 16 to 18 and that he had delegated his powers to the deputy speaker, Raja Asrar Ahmad Abase.

But the deputy speaker, in turn, delegated the powers of in-charge secretary of the assembly to Jamil Ahmad Rathore, a grade 17 employee of the Federal government currently on deputation in the POK assembly as director public relations after secretary Ghulam Ahmad Abbasi and additional secretary Nazir Khokar had gone on leave.

However, Khokhar surrendered his leave before its expiry and rejoined, but the deputy speaker did not accept his decision. Thereafter Khokhar issued an order that since the government had returned the services of Jamil Ahmad Rathore in the federal government, he was being relieved from the assembly and hence his appointment as in-charge secretary was also cancelled and all the orders issued by him in that capacity were also canceled.

The deputy speaker challenged saying this order had no legal standing because he already suspended Nazir Khokhar along with assistant secretary Muhammad Fayaz Khan In a public meeting in Muzaffarabad on June 3, 1998 outside the legislative assembly, Raja Mumtaz Hussain Rathore, Chairman, PP (Nusrat Bhutto) and the ousted Speaker of the Legislative Assembly accused Sultan Mahmud government of rampant corruption, and tarnishing the image of ‘Azad Kashmir’.

He promised that if Sultan Mahmud – led government was ousted, he would change the system in order to serve the masses and the country in real sense. “Unfortunately, an inefficient person has been thrust upon the people of Azad Kashmir who has no interest or concern about the welfare of the ‘AJK’ people and success of the ongoing ‘freedom movement’ in held Kashmir, ” he said. Initially it was announced that protest rally against the present government would be held which would be addressed by the dissident leaders. (Read on Media-Watch).

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