By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Pakistan's prime minister Wednesday nominated a little-known newly elected lawmaker, Abdul Qayyum Niazi, to be the new premier of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, also called Azad Kashmir.
Imran Khan, who is also the chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which bagged a comfortable majority in the July 25 state assembly elections, announced the nomination in a Twitter post.
Niazi has been elected as a member of Legislative Assembly from Poonch district, which lies on the Line of Control – a de facto border that divides Jammu and Kashmir between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India.
His nomination comes as a surprise to the political circles as he superseded several top party leaders, and strong candidates for the top post, particularly PTI Kashmir President and former Premier Barrister Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry, and an overseas billionaire and Khan's close associate, Sardar Tanveer Ilyas.
Some view that a tug-of-war between the two heavyweights has cleared the way for Niazi to grab the nomination for the prime minister.
His election to be held later in the day, will be a mere formality as the PTI enjoys a comfortable majority of 32 seats in a 53-member assembly.
The center-left Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and center-right Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) have 12 and 7 seats, respectively.
One PPP member, Chaudhry Yaseen, has been elected on two seats, and is eligible to cast only one vote.
More than half of the eligible 3.2 million voters cast ballots to elect the 53-member Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) assembly to a five-year term on July 25.
Pakistan's Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry tweeted that after a "long process of consultations and suggestions," Prime Minister Khan nominated the newly elected member of the AJK Legislative Assembly as the PTI nominee for the post.
- Parliamentary system of governance
Following the division of Jammu and Kashmir into Pakistani and Indian-controlled parts in 1947, the AJK was governed under the presidential form of government.
In 1975, then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto introduced the parliamentary system for the region.
This first government, headed by Bhutto's PPP, was dismissed in 1977 due to the imposition of martial law in Pakistan by then- Army Chief Gen. Zia-ul-Haq. There were no elections until 1985.
The Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir is held by Pakistan and India in parts and claimed both in full. A small sliver of land is also held by China.