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The Hindu, Monday, July 29, 2002
New Delhi not to allow international observers

By Our Diplomatic Correspondent

NEW DELHI JULY 28. India today made it clear that it would not allow international observers to either investigate or certify the coming elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The Foreign Office spokesperson told presspersons that India did not object to diplomats or others visiting Jammu and Kashmir on an individual basis. Whosoever was able to obtain visas for India could travel to the State, she stressed.

Interpreting the remarks made on observers by the U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, at his press conference today, the spokesperson claimed that the General did not make a pitch for international observers. She made it clear that NGOs would not be permitted to monitor the elections. This position had been conveyed to all interlocutors, including the United States.

Referring to the meeting between the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, and Gen. Powell, the spokesperson said Mr. Vajpayee conveyed to him that infiltration across the Line of Control was continuing. Pakistan had also not dismantled the infrastructure of terrorism.

India was committed to holding free and fair elections in Jammu and Kashmir but it was necessary to bring down the levels of violence there. Attempts to sabotage the elections, she said, must not be permitted to succeed. Any dialogue with Pakistan would depend on the policies it pursued — how it dealt with infiltration and the dismantling of the terrorism infrastructure. She made it clear that India would closely monitor Pakistan's approach to the elections.

During the discussions Gen. Powell had with his Indian interlocutors today (which included the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, and the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Brajesh Mishra) there was a clear effort not to allow Indo-U.S. relations to be circumscribed by Indo-Pak. issues.

Asked if the General had been prescriptive in his fairly detailed comments on the situation in the sub-continent, the spokesperson said no such attempt had been detected.

 

ABC.net.au, 31/07/2002 03:10:50
India rejects US call for Kashmir election monitors

The Indian government has rejected a call by American Secretary of State, Colin Powell, for independent election monitors to be deployed in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Mr Powell has called on the Indian government to allow foreign observers to monitor elections in Kashmir set for October and to release "political prisoners" ahead of the vote.

But during parliamentary debate on Mr Powell's visit, junior foreign minister Digvijay Singh said India needed no lessons on how to hold elections.

Opposition leaders during the debate accused India of being "too polite" with Mr Powell.

Mr Powell says the Kashmir vote is a first step in a process that addresses Kashmiri grievances.

Kashmir separatists, however, have vowed to boycott the vote.

 

ABC.net.au, 31/07/2002 03:10:50
Powell's suggestions stir India's scorn

India's government and opposition have united in a rowdy rejection of a call by US secretary of state Colin Powell for independent election monitors in the disputed state of Kashmir.

Mr Powell has called on the Indian government to allow foreign observers to monitor elections in Kashmir set for October and to release 'political prisoners' ahead of the vote.

However, during parliamentary debate on Mr Powell's visit, junior foreign minister Digvijay Singh said India needed no lessons on how to hold elections.

"India is a country of one billion people," Mr Singh said.

"We are committed to our foreign policy and we don't need any suggestions".

Opposition leaders during the debate accused India of being 'too polite' with Mr Powell.

Mr Powell says the Kashmir vote is a first step in a process that addresses Kashmiri grievances.

Kashmir separatists have vowed to boycott the vote.

 

KhaleejTimes, August 17, 2002

Few believe Kashmir polls will be free and fair

SRINAGAR - With just one month to go before controversial legislative polls begin in Indian Kashmir, chief electoral officer Pramod Jain is convinced a 'free and fair' atmosphere will prevail in the restive state come voting day.

Many voters in Kupwara, one of the six rural districts which will go to the polls when the four-part exercise begins on September 16, are equally convinced the atmosphere will be anything but 'free and fair'. "There has been a history of rigging in Kashmir," said Ghulam Nabi, a businessman in the highly-militarised garrison town of Kupwara, 100km north of Indian Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar.

"Why should this time be any different? They are not allowing in foreign observers - what has the Indian government got to hide?" Unemployed Mohammad Abzel claimed that in the previous election for the state legislature - in 1996 - Indian soldiers had rounded up voters and had forced them to go to the polling booths.

"The intimidation has begun already," said Abzel, claiming - along with many other residents - that soldiers had forced all drivers in Kupwara to attach Indian flags to their vehicles in the run-up to India's Independence Day on August 15.

Additionally, he and many others claimed, soldiers had been stopping residents in the streets of Kupwara, within shelling distance of the Pakistani side of divided Kashmir, and demanding to see identity cards.

"If they are not the new cards specially being introduced for the election, the soldiers cut them up and force us to apply for the new ones," said Abdul Rashid, who is also unemployed.

Apart from the claimed harassment by the Indian security officials, locals in the picturesque Himalayan town, which frequently reverberates with the sound of Bofors artillery guns opening fire on Pakistani positions, have many other concerns.

"This time they are using the new electronic voting machines," said trader Mohammad Ramzan Amin. "We don't trust them." The distrust stems from the belief that there is nothing to stop officials pushing the electronic button as many time as they like for non-existent voters.

Then there's the question of security. With separatists boycotting and militants vowing to violently disrupt the polling, many people feel unsafe in the six areas where the poll will be held on September 16, said Mehbooba Mufti, Vice-Chairwoman of the People's Democratic Party.

Her group has yet to decide if it will participate in the ballot. "It's not a good time of year to hold an election," Mufti said in Srinagar. "It will be harvest time and the maize crops will be very high" - offering plenty of hiding places for militants. - AFP

 

The News International, Wednesday August 28, 2002

India's desperate Kashmir gamble

Shireen M Mazari

The writer is Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad

smnews80@hotmail.com

On certain issues, India can be extremely predictable - and the Indian military's attack along the LoC was an example of this. That is, India's habitual creation of some incident in/around Occupied Kashmir to time with the arrival of an American/European emissary to the region. And the stakes for India have become very high now with the planned elections it intends to hold in Occupied Kashmir. For unless India can muster up at least a semblance of credibility to these elections, it will have no option but to dialogue with Pakistan on Kashmir. Hence, India is attempting to move on multiple fronts in a desperate effort to once again try and remove Pakistan from the Kashmir equation and get a modicum of participation from the Kashmiri people and their accepted leaders - as opposed to the ones created by the Indian government. That is why the likes of Farooq Abdullah are fearing for their very survival politically.

To begin with, India attempted to split up the APHC and then move for getting the more "compliant" of them to agree to participate in the elections. As part of this policy, many of the top leadership of the APHC has been imprisoned - and one was martyred with the unfulfilled expectation that his murder could be laid on Pakistan's doorstep. Despite all this, the APHC remains resolutely unified in Occupied Kashmir. So the Indian government has had no choice but to move towards efforts to try and get the unified APHC to participate in the forthcoming elections. On this front, the Indian government has not made much headway at all. In fact, even non-APHC leaders like Shabbir Shah have declared that while they are prepared to talk to the Indian government, they will not participate in the elections.

The Indian government also moved towards seeking dialogue with the APHC without making it seem as if it was compromising its hard line position on Kashmir. Hence the coming into being of the unofficial Kashmir committee that was sent to act as a go-between effectively, without its commitments having any official colour. In this way, the Indian government left itself room for deniability and manoeuvre. On this front, also, India has not been able to attain the goal it sought - to get the APHC and other Kashmiri leaders to dialogue with the Indian government as well as give a commitment to participate in the September/October elections. For one, the Kashmiri leaders have stated clearly that while they will dialogue with the Indian government, it will not be for the purpose of participating in the electoral process within the framework of the Indian Constitution. Worse has followed for the Indian government, since the APHC has reiterated its position that it will only dialogue with the Indian government if the latter then allows its leaders to travel to Pakistan for talks with the Pakistan government and the Kashmiri freedom fighters on the AJK side of the LoC. So at the end of the day, it has become clear, once again, that the Kashmiri leaders are not prepared to accept elections in Occupied Kashmir within the framework of the Indian Constitution, and that Pakistan is an integral party to the Kashmir dispute.

But India has moved simultaneously on many other fronts - using the indirect approach also, to try and get some veneer of credibility for the forthcoming elections in Occupied Kashmir. Within this approach, the new strategic ally, the US, is being looked upon to providing major support. And the US has responded at some levels. For instance, its diplomats in New Delhi have been going to Occupied Kashmir and meeting the Kashmiri leaders in an effort to convince them to participate in the elections. And American emissaries have kept up their pressure on Pakistan regarding what the Indians refer to as "cross-border" infiltration. Even as they appreciate Pakistan's role in the war on terrorism, they insist that Pakistan needs to "do more" on the infiltration issue.

One of the problems on this infiltration point is that both the US and Indian positions continue to be inconsistent. In one breath, they give out that the infiltration has stopped or is negligible, and then almost immediately, they say that it continues and Pakistan is not doing enough. It is almost as if the issue has simply become a propaganda tool to keep Pakistan under pressure and for purposes of "Paki-bashing". In addition, the US seems to have become oblivious to the continuing tension along the Pakistan-India border as well as the LoC, with Indian troops still amassed along the border and especially in view of the latest Indian attack across the LoC. This is the second time since 1971 that India has upped the military ante along the LoC by bringing in its air force into play. The first time was of course during Kargil where India brought in the Bofor guns and the air force. How the US can claim that tensions have eased given these development, boggles the mind but, then, the US has its own interests in this region - and India is a crucial strategic ally.

Interestingly, India has also adopted a hard line posture regarding the assessment of the credibility of the forthcoming elections in Occupied Kashmir. Hence, it has refused to allow foreign observers. And those who normally make a hue and cry about such things, have backed off without so much as a whimper - especially the EU, which has been hounding Pakistan on the issue of its observer mission that has already set up camp and is being as intrusive within Pakistan's domestic polity as they can get away with! The US NDI has also set up office in Pakistan for the monitoring of the elections!

The Indian position on Western observers has been most clearly stated by their Chief Election Commissioner, Mr Lyngdoh - "The days of the white man telling natives what to do and how are long past" (India Today: August 19, 2002). Now here is a lesson for Pakistan! However, Mr Lyngdoh should have no objections to a SAARC observer mission - but the SAARC NGOs who deal with such issues are also strangely silent! In fact, Pakistan should also opt only for a SAARC observer mission. As it is, the EU's leader of the observer mission, Mr Cushnahan, was appointed by EU Commissioner Chris Patten, who himself had displayed a clear-cut arrogance and contempt for Pakistan on his last visit here. When the EU media person was requested for details regarding the other members' political credentials and their appointing authority - in order to ascertain their independence - this scribe received no response (despite a telephonic commitment)! So one really has to wonder on that score.

Also on the propaganda front, India has begun a preemptive campaign to try and rationalise the expected rejection of the polls by the majority of the Kashmiris. The central theme of this campaign is to lay the blame at Pakistan's door - that Pakistan intervened to sabotage the elections. That is why there is a media blitz at various levels, including "requests" from Western sources that Pakistan should not interfere with a view to undermining the electoral process. This is, of course, highly insulting to the Kashmiri leadership and people within Occupied Kashmir who have fought Indian occupation and suffered for over a decade - to think that the only reason they will boycott the polls will be because of Pakistani intervention! Also, it certainly presumes Pakistan to have a lot more power within Occupied Kashmir than it does. Otherwise, India would surely have accepted the reality and dialogued with Pakistan, instead of wasting time and effort in wooing the APHC and other Kashmiri leaders.

At one level, the Pakistan government has seen the Indian game on this count and the Foreign Office has made a categorical assertion to the contrary, regarding Indian claims of Pakistani interference in the elections in Occupied Kashmir. But more needs to be done at multiple media levels. Of course, it does not help matters when some Pakistanis buy the Indian line and make statements cautioning the Pakistan government with no iota of proof. It is a sad reflection of our mindsets, when the interests of the government are confused with national interests and, to undermine the former, the latter is often jeopardised.

All in all, with India moving on all these multiple levels to ensure some minimal level of credibility for the elections in Occupied Kashmir, the Kashmiris in Pakistan along with the GoP need to be active in countering Indian moves. But most important, the Kashmiris in Pakistan and in AJK need to move towards a visible consensus, with tactical differences being put aside. Petty, internecine quarrelling is damaging to the Kashmir cause at a time when all parties are moving towards a critical juncture. What happens in relation to the elections in Occupied Kashmir will decide the future course of developments not only in Kashmir itself but also between Pakistan and India. India has realised this and is moving accordingly.

There is a need for Pakistan to develop proactive policies as well as quick responses to Indian efforts to malign Pakistan. International pressure and misperceptions need to be dealt with strongly rather than in an apologetic mode. After all, on Kashmir it is India that has used occupation and military power to abuse and repress the Kashmiris for decades even as it has ignored UN Security Council resolutions on the issue of Kashmiri self-determination. Pakistan should stop allowing itself to become the whipping boy for Indian and Western angst on Kashmir.

 

DAWN, September 01, 2002

JAMMU, Aug 31: Some 30,000 Indian paramilitary forces and police commandos have arrived in occupied Kashmir to provide security for the elections starting on Sept 16, police said on Saturday.

Already 10,000 police officials are providing security to certain "protected persons", including political leaders, bureaucrats, journalists and businessmen, a police spokesman said.

The new guards will give security to candidates, political leaders and voters.

Security arrangements for the poll will be supervised by the police chief in each district while the security of polling stations will be handed over to paramilitary forces, the spokesman said.

The strength of the police force in the held state has increased from 23,000 in 1990 to more than 60,000 at present, but the authorities still need additional forces from the Indian government for the elections.

"The challenge posed by separatists and the rebels is enormous when they have announced to wreck the polling," a senior police official said.

"In the militancy-disturbed areas of Poonch and Rajouri districts, 20,000 men of the paramilitary forces and police commandos (from East Punjab) have been sent to provide security cover to the candidates and prevent rebels from storming the polling stations," he said.

According to Chief Electoral Officer Pramod Jain, troops were deployed in the 26 assembly constituencies 45 days before polling.

"The very purpose of holding the poll in four phases was to allow time to the security forces to cover all areas while voting took place.

"Since the number of candidates is going to be quite big it may be difficult for us to provide foolproof security cover to each candidate and political activists," said police official.

He said in the districts of Poonch and Rajouri, "each candidate has to be provided with more than two security guards besides another three people at his residence".-AFP

 

The News International, Sunday, September 08, 2002

Will the elections in Kashmir be fair?

Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema

The writer works for Islamabad Policy Research Institute

picheema@ipri-pak.org

Following his recent visit to New Delhi, the Kashmiri leader Mr. Shabbir Shah have reportedly accused the BJP-led NDA government of succumbing to pressures from Farooq Abdullah government. He further stated that the Centre is engaged in sabotaging the peace process (initiated by the Kashmir Committee) under the influence of Kashmir's Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah. Terming his New Delhi visit a success, he categorically reaffirmed earlier decision to boycott the election exercise. Indian Deputy Prime Minister Advani's refusal to meet Shabbir Shah during his recent visit to New Delhi was viewed by the Chairman of India's Kashmir Committee Mr Jethmalani, as discouraging. He even said, "it was a move which may have consequences of derailing the peace process".

Not only the APHC (All Parties Hurriyat Conference) has repeatedly asserted that elections are no substitute for plebiscite, even many Indians have recently stressed that the elections must be postponed enabling the Kashmir Committee to have a comprehensive dialogue with the APHC leaders. This implies not only that the legitimacy of APHC as true representative of the Kashmiris is being increasingly recognised but the Kashmir Committee also seems to be making progress in terms of having a comprehensive dialogue with the true

The APHC leadership has almost regularly emphasised that strictly controlled and managed elections which the New Delhi holds from time to time in the occupied areas are no solution to basic issue -- the future status of Kashmir. Fully cognisant of Indian designs, the APHC leadership has once again appealed to the people of Kashmir not to participate in the elections. They have highlighted the real Indian aims. According to APHC leadership the Indians are attempting to misguide the world by incessantly projecting that Kashmir is an internal issue.

In addition the Indian officials in close collaboration with the existing effective propaganda machine are injecting the notion that India intends to hold free and a fair election. If one scans the past elections in Kashmir, one does not have to look too deep to find out that none of the past elections in the occupied Kashmir was either free or fair. In fact the international media had reported in the past how the Kashmiris were dragged out of their houses and were forced to cast their votes. Three factors tend to re-enforce our assertions that given the incumbent conditions the elections could not be free and fair.

First, it is generally reported that over 700,000 security forces are already stationed in the Indian occupied Kashmir. In addition, it has been recently reported in the India media that over 440 additional companies of paramilitary forces have been rushed to Jammu and Kashmir. It is obvious that some of these troops would be stationed along the LoC (Line of Control) but a vast majority of these troops are engaged in what is called "intimidation game". In the past the electronic media has been able to capture images clearly revealing the strong arm tactics employed the Indian security forces to influence the Kashmiris to participate in the elections. The very presence of such a large number of soldiers has intimidating impact upon the general population of IHK.

Ample evidence has been collected highlighting the alarming frequency of brutalities and atrocities that are regularly committed by the Indian security forces. Neither the codified evidence nor the appeals of human right groups all around the world have been able to influence the Indian security forces to desist from acts of brutalities. Even some of the foreigners have also tasted the brutal treatment the security forces extend to the Kashmiris engaged in a struggle for freedom.

Second the Indians have categorically refused to accept the international monitors to assess whether or not the elections have been free and fair. Drumming the notion that India is capable to hold free and fair elections but denying the presence of international observer does not augur well for the Indian assertions. It is expected that at the last moment India might allow some favoured journalists including some foreigners to report on the Kashmir elections under the strict vigilance of the Indian security forces. In addition, it would not be all that surprising if the Indians allow some of the diplomats to observe the polls at designated places. Similarly the extremely patriotic and nationalist Indian media would also get an opportunity to have an overview of the elections.

Not only the international observers/monitors need to be allowed to go to Kashmir but the foreign journalists must also be provided free access to election processes in Kashmir. The denial of permission to international observers clearly gives birth to unnecessary doubts. It would be appropriate for the Indian authorities to allow the international observers to monitor the elections. As the Indian officials frequently claim that India is capable of holding free and fair election and international observers are not at all required to assess the elections, then one fails to understand the logic governing the denial of permission to international observers. There is no doubt regarding the independent and impartial role the India Election Commission has played over the years but one cannot just undermine the useful contributions that have been regularly made by the international monitors.

Third, the most popular political alliance or group, which enjoys almost the total support of the Kashmiris, namely the APHC has already announced its complete boycott with the elections. Many of the APHC leaders are in jail under the operative black laws on flimsy grounds. Acting Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Javed Mir has been the most recent addition to the long list of APHC leadership languishing in jails. The arrest of leaders clearly points towards the sinister Indian intentions and designs. Obviously the campaign of the APHC leadership to prevent Kashmiri’s participation in the elections is subjected to all kind of contrived pressures and carefully worked out plans. Could such tactics facilitate the over drummed notion of free and fair elections.

Not only the APHC leadership has already refused to participate in the forthcoming elections but has also been continuously stressing that Kashmiris should be allowed to decide the future status of their own state. They claim that their legitimate right of self- determinations has already been recognised and codified by the UN. For them the elections are no substitute to plebiscite. India’s Kashmir Committee did manage to convince the APHC leadership to initiate a dialogue with the Committee in order to find a solution to the Kashmir dispute. Mr Jethmalani is indeed heartened by this positive development and even hinted at the possibility of resumption of talks with Pakistan. Admittedly as the events are unfolding the dialogue with APHC could be useful for Mr. Jethmalani. Hopeful of positive developments Mr.Jethmalani even recommended the postponement of elections- a suggestion that was firmly rejected by both the Election Commission as well as by the Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani.

Given the above-mentioned developments it is not too difficult to assume that the elections in Kashmir are unlikely to be free and fair. The international community needs to examine the hidden agenda of the Indians. The Indians would try almost everything in order to secure a much higher voting percentage than what they got last time. A higher voting percentage could facilitate the Indians drumbeat regarding the Kashmir being an internal issue. An election without the presence of independent international media as well as the international election monitors is unlikely to be viewed as a fair and free election.

All indicators are pointing towards the assumption that India would be unable to secure the minimum desired voting percentage in Kashmir election. It is almost certain that the Indian officials would put the blame on Pakistan in one form or the other. Even if the voting percentage surpasses the one attained in the last election, the determined Indian officials would then argue that voting percentage could have been higher, had the Pakistanis not interfered or caused violence or sponsored cross border terrorism. It is difficult to imagines any eventuality in which no blame is placed on Pakistan.

 

The News International, Tuesday September 10, 2002

'India not considering Kashmiris' call to visit Pakistan'

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Monday said his government was not considering a demand by Kashmiri militants to visit Pakistan to resolve a long-running dispute over the Himalayan region.

"There is no such proposal before us," Vajpayee told reporters shortly before leaving for a week-long visit to New York for the United Nations General Assembly session.

On Sunday India-backed Kashmir Committee mediators said they supported a demand by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Kashmir's main political alliance, to be allowed to hold talks with their counterparts in Islamabad and the Pakistani government.

"The Kashmir Committee has supported the Hurriyat's wish to pursue a dialogue for peace and a durable solution with Kashmiri political elements in Pakistan and with the government of Pakistan," said M J Akbar, a journalist and a member of the Kashmir Committee.

The idea is controversial as the Indian government has in the past refused to allow the Hurriyat to travel to Pakistan to meet Pakistani officials. On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani made it clear that New Delhi was still not in favour of allowing the Hurriyat to travel to Pakistan. "There is no need to talk through intermediaries," Advani told reporters in New Delhi. "Whoever wants they can talk to us (on Kashmir). We will decide when to speak to Pakistan," he added.

It was not the first time India has rejected recommendations made by the private committee since it was set up in August with the blessing of the government. The committee has proposed that New Delhi release detained militants and postpone the elections in occupied Kashmir, but both ideas were rejected.

The committee also tried to set up a meeting between moderate Kashmiri militants Shabir Shah and Advani last week, but the latter refused to meet him. The setbacks have put a question mark over the group's legitimacy.

 

The News International, Monday, September 16, 2002

History of rigged polls in held Kashmir

Dr Ayub Thakur

There are elections which are free and others which are not free and are sham. Free societies worldwide have a host of built-in legal procedures to ensure fairness of elections. But all elections in Indian occupied Kashmir fall in the category of sham, rigged elections marked by deception. This process of Indian supervised election in Jammu and Kashmir has been deplored by eminent political commentators, including Prem Nath Bazaz.

He has said "Undoubtedly, to hoodwink world opinion and silence the democratic elements in the State, the farce of elections was enacted periodically along with general elections in the rest of the country, but the fact remained that the final decision regarding election of candidates, extent of rigging and supply of funds rested with Central Congress leadership in India." (Democracy through Intimidation and Terror, The Untold Story of Kashmiri Politics, New Delhi, 1978).

The State Assembly elections in occupied Kashmir--nine from 1951 to 1996--show a dismal record of India's perfidy. In the elections of October 1951, held for the so-called Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, and which took the decision for the final 'accession' of Jammu and Kashmir to India, 73 out of the 75 candidates of the National Conference (NC) led by Sheikh Abdullah, were declared elected without contest. In the remaining two constituencies, NC candidates were also declared elected through hooliganism against their opponents.

In the 1957 elections, 30 candidates of the NC, led by Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad, were declared elected without contest. Ten more NC candidates were declared elected after their opponents' nomination papers were rejected. Twentyeight constituencies were rigged in favour of NC candidates. The final result was; 68 NC, 1 Harijan Mandal, and one Independent. The election was boycotted by the Plebiscite Front, the supporters of Sheikh Abdullah and the majority of Kashmiri people.

In the 1962 elections, 33 candidates from the NC were declared elected without contest. In eight constituencies, opposition candidates were forced to withdraw their nominations, while the nomination papers of another four were rejected. Opposition candidates alleged that they were intimidated and some even kidnapped to prevent them from filing their nominations. The final result was: 69 NC, three Praja Parishad, and two Independents. Plebiscite Front again boycotted the elections.

In the 1967 elections, by which time, the Congress Party had been formed in the State, 60 of the 75 seats were taken by the Congress by virtue of widespread vote rigging. The nomination papers of 22 opposition candidates were rejected as a result of which Congress candidates were returned without contest from these constituencies.

In the 1972 elections too, the Congress Party retained a two-third majority.

In the 1977 elections, a revived NC led by late Sheikh Abdullah won.

In the 1983 elections, NC lead by Farooq Abdullah, took 47 out of 75 seats. All these elections were marked by institutionalised vote-rigging.

In the 1987 elections, the NC formed an alliance with the Congress, and together they took 62 seats. This election was widely commented upon for being a sham and completely rigged. "There was a consensus in the administration and the intelligence agencies that the Congress-National Conference alliance had resorted to large scale rigging." (The Times of India, January 10 1990).

The then State Governor Jagmohan said in his report to Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi: "You have won the election but lost Kashmir." The 1987 State Assembly elections were a watershed in the history of Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmiri alienation from India was total, the people of Kashmir boycotted the 1989 elections in the State for seats in the Indian Parliament.

Commenting on the incredibly low turnout in the elections, The Patriot of New Delhi (November 26, 1989) said: "The only point left to be determined about the farce that goes by the name of elections held in the Kashmir Valley is, that whether the turnout of voters was four per cent as claimed by official quarters or that it was actually only two per cent."

The 1996 elections for the Indian Parliament were widely reported by the international media to have been held at gun point: "Indian guns force Kashmiri voters to ballot box" said The Times of London on May 24, 1996. "Troops force Kashmiri to vote" reported the Washington Post the same day. Reports in the Indian media too were much the same. "People herded, forced to vote", said The Statesman on May 24, 1996. The Hindu reported on May 30, 1996, "Elections held under shadow of gun."

The final result was: J&K National Conference 56+2 nominated women; Awami League (Kuka Parey) 1; Panthers Party 1; Independent 2, Bharatiya Janata Party 8; Indian National Congress 7, Congress (Tiwari) 1; Janata Dal 5; Bohojan Samaj Party 5; and CPI(Marxist) 1.

Says former Judge of Kashmir High Court, Mufti Bahauddin Farooqi, Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Basic Human Rights Committee, "Kashmir has been notorious for rigged and fraudulent elections at the instance of the government, but that always used to be a covert exercise in which administrative set-up and money played a decisive role.

"Elections, particularly the recent ones, in Jammu and Kashmir have provided a wholly true picture of military might being employed in its naked form to control and regulate the wishes of the people of Kashmir."

Elections under the inhibiting presence of a large number of Indian military and paramilitary forces, (to date over 700,000) will never be an answer to the core problem of Kashmir. And unless the Kashmiri people get their right of self-determination, the Kashmir crisis will continue, rigged elections notwithstanding. It is time for India's rulers to understand this to India's benefit.

The writer is President of London-based World Kashmir Freedom Movement. He issued a paper on history of rigged elections in Indian occupied Kashmir.

 

The News International, Tuesday September 17, 2002
Violence, forced voting mar held Kashmir polls

Srinagar, other towns shut on APHC's strike call; army beat up villagers to cast vote; security forces claim killing 17 militants

HELD SRINAGAR: Sporadic violence and claims by some voters that soldiers had forced them to vote marred the first phase on Monday of legislative polls in held Kashmir but officials said it passed off without major disruption.

The chief electoral officer in held Kashmir, Pramod Jain, said the preliminary figure for turnout was 44 per cent of the 1.49 million eligible voters in the five districts voting, which he termed "satisfactory." Turnout in the previous election in 1996 in those districts was declared at 61 per cent while for the whole state it was 54 percent. Average turnout in India's other state polls is usually around 67 per cent.

Many people declined to vote, giving their support rather to a poll boycott declared by All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), which wants instead a UN-supervised plebiscite to determine the future of Kashmir. However, Kashmiri villagers accused army soldiers of storming into their homes and beating them to force a large turnout, an accusation that also coloured the last election in 1996, which India wants to flag as an endorsement of its occupation of Kashmir.

Army said it killed 12 people, trying to cross the LoC from Keran sector of western Kupwara district. "They were asked to surrender but they ignored the plea by opening fire," said a defence spokesman, who updated an earlier death toll of 11 to 12. The spokesman said a large amount of arms and ammunition was seized from them, whom he said were believed to be part of Hizbul Mujahedin.

In the second incident, Indian troops killed five 'militants' in southern Surankot area, in the district of Poonch. Police said six people were injured in explosions at or near polling stations, while another seven explosive devices were defused in the five districts. A boy also died in a grenade attack in a non-voting area.

Opposition to controversial polls was so strong in some towns that nobody turned up to vote, although in other areas people queued up to cast their ballots. A strike called by APHC closed shops and businesses in held Srinagar and many other towns and villages looked almost deserted.

A polling officer in the town of Sopore, in the northern Baramulla district, said at one booth where 1,276 voters were registered not a single one had showed up by 3:00 pm (Indian time). At a nearby station only two voters had cast their votes.

At the Sopore booth, heavily guarded by soldiers and police, local officials sat in the sun and whiled away their hours of duty. "It was what we expected," said one presiding officer, Bashir Ahmad. Tanveer Ahmad, 22, said he was boycotting the vote but not because he was worried about militant attacks. "We want freedom, that is all. It is not because of threats."

In the village of Chogal in the neighbouring district of Kupwara, only 16 people had turned up to vote at one of the polling stations where 899 people were registered. In the village of Kulangam of the Kupwara district, several of the 2,000 residents said the army was intimidating those who had planned to boycott the polls. "I was sitting in my house ... taking tea when three or four army people knocked at the door. They said, 'Go to the polling station and cast your vote. Why are you inside?'" said shopkeeper Mushtaq Ahmad. In the north-western town of Baramulla, two men, Muhammad Maqbool and Abdul Majid, claimed they had been beaten by soldiers because they had refused to vote. "They beat me with rifle butts when I refused to come out of my home (to vote)," one Mukhtar Ahmad told Reuters in Singhpora village just outside Srinagar. "Indian army loudspeakers and also the speakers of the local mosque told us to come out to vote or face the consequences."

In Loland village in Baramulla district, soldiers were seen moving through the village speaking to shopkeepers and people on the streets. After they had passed, people said they were being told to go to the polling stations.

The APHC also accused the military of forcing people to vote. "Nowhere in the world are elections held amid the roar of the gun, pools of blood, custodial killings, heinous violations of human rights...," APHC Chairman Abdul Ghani Bhat told reporters. Bhat added turnout was inflated in the closing hours "through intimidation and fraud."

But Jain said there was no question of any voters being coerced. Candidates, the main targets of the militants, were protected by squads of security force personnel when they arrived to vote.

Some villagers in their best dress for both men and women, tramped in to vote at fortress-like polling stations. Some squatted in line six hours in the hot late-Autumn sun. Women holding babies, elderly men and women with walking sticks and couples made their way to the polling booths. "I have been seeing wars since 1947. I'm not scared of any threat. My whole family will vote because they want a change in government," said 83-year-old farmer Ram Peja, as he lined up outside a polling booth in Poonch.

One of the few separatists running in the election, Ghulam Mohiudin Sofi, said turnout was higher than in the previous parliamentary polls in 1996. District officials also appeared in a rush to complete the polling well before the 4 pm deadline. "Polling is very brisk as people want to finish polling before 3 O'clock," said Kargil's district magistrate Ashok Parmar. "There is no shelling yet because Pakistan does not want to spoil its image at this stage by opening fire on innocent people," he said.

Voting took place in 25 constituencies on the first of four staggered days. Counting for all four stages will be done together and results are expected on October 10. Kashmir's ruling National Conference party, also a member of the federal coalition government, is likely to be returned in the absence of any strong opposition. While India has refused to allow foreign observers, some 28 foreign diplomats are watching the voting, unofficially. -Agencies

 

Times (UK), September 17, 2002
Kashmiris forced to defy poll boycott

From Catherine Philp and Muzamil Jaleel in Kashmir


MUSHTAQ and his sister were drinking tea in their family home yesterday when the soldiers knocked. Mushtaq swung open the door to find an armed soldier standing in his doorway.
“He said we have an order that the voter turnout here is low and we can’t have that,” his sister, Haseena, recalled. “He tried to tell them that we couldn’t be forced to vote, but they dragged him out anyway and took him to the station.”

When India called state elections in the part of Kashmir under its control, it promised that they would be fair and no one would be forced to vote. It promised that security forces would protect the people from militants trying to disrupt the vote.

But the people of Aitmullah village say that, far from protecting them, the soldiers have brought the terrorist threat into their homes. “They said they would come back in the evening and check our fingers for indelible ink,” said Zubaida Banu, whose brother, Qasim, was badly beaten before being taken off by the army to vote. If there was no ink to prove they had voted, their fingers would be cut off.

All voters have their fingers dipped in indelible ink, a measure supposed to protect against fraud. But in a war zone it takes on a more sinister meaning. Soldiers check fingers to be satisfied that people have voted, but militants opposed to the polls do so in order to punish people for voting. They have threatened to kill anyone who does so.

Indian security forces killed 17 Islamic separatists trying to cross the border from Pakistani-controlled Kashmir and two men were injured in a bomb blast at a polling station, but in the state capital of Srinagar last night officials were celebrating the relatively peaceful first day of an election that will last four weeks. Polling stations opened amid massive security, unprecedented even in this war-stricken territory. As dawn broke tens of thousands of armed soldiers cruised the roads in armoured cars searching for militants.

Barbed wire ringed the polling stations and, inside, nervous officials were clad in bulletproof jackets and helmets. Most had been drafted in from outside Kashmir to guard against allegations of rigging by local officials.

“I was very scared to come here,” said Sarfaz Mohammed Khan, an elderly primary school teacher forced to leave his school in Uttar Pradesh to staff the polling station in Handwara. His only comfort other than the body armour was a certificate of life insurance, promising 500,000 rupees (6,700) to his dependants should he die on duty. Officials have been concerned that recent violence, including the assassination of two candidates, might scare voters away. But at this station, at least, the turnout was brisk, largely because of enthusiasm for a new entrant into the race, Ghulam Mohiuddin Sofi, a separatist who had himself taken a risk by defying the poll boycott to stand as an independent.

Mehmoodbar Begum, 30, who came to cast her vote for Mr Sofi, said that she would not be intimidated by the militants. “We are already going through hell, so we are prepared to take this risk to see a change,” she said.

The Indian Government is desperate to ensure a high turnout to lend credibility to the elections, which it sees as crucial to consolidating its rule in the disputed territory. Officials deny that the army has been given any orders to coerce voters, but the pattern was the same all over the state.

In the staunchly separatist village of Chogal, soldiers went out looking for voters after only 15 out of a possible 900 voters turned up for the polls. Villagers were dragged out of their homes by soldiers, who stopped only after a mob turned on them.

The main separatist alliance, the All Party Hurriyat Conference, who had boycotted the elections, said that the reports of coercion were widespread. Indian officials denied the claim and were celebrating what they called a “peaceful, free and fair election” with a 44 per cent turnout.

How accurate that figure turns out to be remains to be seen. In the 1996 elections officials claimed a turnout of 54 per cent. Independent observers put the figure at between 5 and 8 per cent.

 

CNN.com, September 17, 2002 Posted: 9:17 AM HKT (0117 GMT)
Kashmiris have little stomach for poll

By Joanna Nathan for CNN

BARAMULLA, Kashmir -- A voting machine in one of Kashmir's most sensitive areas lies in the center of the room with no pretence of allowing voters privacy.

After all, what is the point? "One vote there, one vote here, no need for secrecy," shrugs an overseer in Baramulla's Old Town, a bastion of the boycott call by separatist parties opposed to the state election.

The official's figures are meant literally. More than two-thirds of the way through polling day, two machines -- the second protected with a makeshift cardboard cover -- in the small, bare room have recorded one vote each.

And with armed militant groups targeting everyone involved in the election process, presiding officer Bhopal Singh -- a Hindu civil servant on deputation from Uttar Pradesh -- looks very, very uncomfortable to be here.

Unable to move about freely to get provisions since arriving, Singh has food as well as security on the brain.

"We are hungry, hungry people. The government has made no provision and we have not eaten for three days," he complains.

Just outside the empty center teacher Naseer Ahmed fully supports the boycott and says that it the future status of the area that should have been put to the vote.

"This election is meant only for the government, not for the resolution of Jammu and Kashmir," he says.

A crowd quickly gathers to join him in cries of "No election, no selection, we want freedom."

Altogether when votes are tallied in the constituency -- 50 kilometers from state capital Srinagar -- it is to show a 25 percent turnout, compared to 43 percent across all districts in the first round of polling.

Fear as well as the boycott has kept people away.

Two candidates have been killed in the lead-up to the voting and on Sunday the state's tourism minister narrowly escaped an assassination attempt that killed two of her security personnel.

Businessman Nazir Ahmad chose to spend the day at home with his large joint family on the outskirts of town.

Stories and advertisements in newspapers threatening violence against people who chose to vote -- and, he admits, a certain measure of indifference -- have discouraged a trip to the polling booth.

On the other hand, Ahmad says that army personnel have suggested in recent days that they would "like to see ink on people's thumbs," although he adds that he has not heard of people being physically compelled to vote as was widely reported during the last poll in 1996.

Fifty kilometers further away the atmosphere is quite different in Uri, an area within sight of Pakistani-controlled territory and often subject to exchanges of fire between the two countries.

Despite widespread fears to the contrary all is quiet on the first of four polling days. "They know observers are watching," laughs Brigadier Ramesh Halgali.

Economics not politics

While there does not appear to be any great enthusiasm for the candidates on offer, a steady flow of people in the surrounding areas express a desire to at least exercise their franchise.

"Someone has to form the government and vote," shrugs farmer Fatah Mohad who has walked two kilometers to be here. "I have not benefited in the last 50 years from this process and I want my representative to do better."

Again and again it is economics rather than politics that is mentioned.

In the village of Bandy, Abdul Karim having just cast his ballot says that every time candidates makes promises to improve employment figures in the region, "but nothing has been done."

Gurjan Devi, who has three sons without fulltime jobs, agrees. "Jobs is the most important ... we are used to the shelling and have nowhere else to go."

Indeed weighing the family's economic future she make the other villagers on the bus laugh by adding: "Sometimes not even death is so bad."

 

Paknews.com, Updated on 2002-09-18 05:40:52
India's Shameless Sham Elections In Kashmir

Perhaps Shakespeare was right in claiming this world was a comedy stage where each players comes to play a role. India has found a comic role for itself. Showing absolutely no respect for any United Nations resolutions, in another smoke & mirrors ritual, India is holding sham elections with a certain twists. It has caught itself in a web of its own lies.

India has somehow convinced itself to believe that a ‘good turnout’ means ‘Kashmir is won.’ So, in order to make this happen, all parts of Indian army, over 700,000 strong, are engaged in making sure Kashmiris make it the polling booths. As was to be expected, the sham elections announced by the India were met with a total boycott by the Kashmiris, who want India out of Kashmir.

The status of Indian Occupied Kashmir is, at best, disputed. India has not even let Kashmiris exercise their right to self-determination, to choose between India or Pakistan. The sham attempt to somehow portray Kashmiris as having already made a choice by thrusting elections upon them is ridiculous and blatantly against the norms and in violation of United Nations resolutions.

The following are the voices of Kashmiris;

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Even as polling went on briskly at several booths at Dawar in Gurez constituency, where unlike other places, the army and security forces did not intervene, the NC candidate Nazir Ahmad Khan harassed the polling staff, alleged the presiding officer,

Muhammad Sultan. "Mein ghasait doonga, peetoonga, tumhein patta nahin tum chor ho", he told the official. The polling officer, Nathu Singh of JP Nagar (Amroha UP) also expressed the same view.

Eyewitness accounts from various areas spoke of largescale coercion by the security forces to ‘facilitate’ large turnout. Barring the border security force men and some polling officials, nobody was visible in and around the roadside BSF camp-cum-polling station at Trisoo, Nutnoosa in Kupwara district at 8 am. But when the GK team returned from Kupwara, it halted at Trisoo where pro-freedom slogans were being raised by villagers on being forcibly dragged by the troops of 21 RR from Chak Nutnoosa, Tirsoo and adjoining villages.

"We were told your fingers would be chopped off if no ink mark was seen on them. Now we have the option to either vote or have our fingers cut," an elderly villager said. The polling station witnessed beating of several villagers in which two persons were eriously injured. One of them Ghulam Ahmad Magray of Trisoo was beaten to the pulp and segregated from other persons.

When the GK reporter enquired from Magray about the circumstances leading to the incident, a BSF assistant commandant present there ordered his men to take Magray away and threatened the reporter with same treatment if he questioned him any more.

"We have sacrificed 80000 people. Voting is out of question," Shabir Ahmad, a youth said inside the camp in presence of severalmediapersons. Interestingly, several minors were among the unwilling voters. A physically challenged Habib Ullah Bhat, 38, alleged he was dragged out of his house. "We were herded to the booth like cattle", he said.

"I fail to understand why they are pressurising us when we are least interested in this drama enacted to hoodwink the foreign observers. We’re on a boycott and demand nothing less than freedom," a local youth chipped in chaste English. incidentally, he said this in front of the BSF officials.

At Dardpora near Trehgam- the unfortunate village with more than 175 widows- the common refrain of the people of Mir Mohalla, Aram Mohalla was: "We were straightaway ordered to vote or face the music later. If today they would have left us, tomorrow they would have beaten us," Mohi-ud-Din Bhat, 45, and others said.

The polling agent of an independent candidate Ghulam Qadir Mir was telling an officer of the BSF to ensure brisk polling as only 50 out of 1200 votes had been cast by noon. "Don’t look into the voter list. Whosoever comes to vote, let him in," the agent was heard telling the security officer.

A major (name withheld) of 24 RR had summoned the locals on the Sopur-Kupwara road near Brumrie in the morning telling them, ,"Mujhe nishan chahiye, haq nahin chhodna, kisi na kisi ko vote dalna hai, (I need ink mark. Don’t waste your right, vote for someone of

your choice)." At nearby Arampora (Drugmulla), public address system of the local mosque had been used to urge people to come out ‘or face the consequences.’

Bashir Ahmad, Imam of Kralpora, was told to urge villagers to cast their vote to avoid ‘humiliation.’ A Mutahida Mahaz polling agent, Ali Muhammad Bhat at centre No. 62 A of Poshpora village said forces had cordoned off the entire area and prevented the people from going to their fields unless they first cast their votes. None of the 30 women, allegedly mass raped by troops in 1991, were seen casting their votes. A polling agent of NC candidate echoed Bhat’s views saying "we are caught between two guns. Yes, forces would ensure peoples participation."

The scene in Varmul town, where a curfew-like situation prevailed throughout the day, was no different. A havildar of 46 RR admitted the turnout had been negligible as not a single soul had ventured out to cast vote. The havildar told a press party passing through Dewan Bagh Varmul, Woh nahin nikal rahe hein, hum nikal rahe hein deerey deerey, (the people are reluctant to vote. We’re bringing them out).

On seeing the media vehicles, a group of women blocked the road near Azadgunj, Varmul, yelling, "they are forcing even 12-year-old girls out of their houses," while pointing towards the soldiers. This enforced franchise was found at many other places at and around Varmul like Khanpur, Mohalla Jadeed, Kanthbagh, etc. At Bungalow Bagh, lathi-wielding soldiers asked a woman to come out to vote. Males, the women added, had already left their homes through the rear to escape harassment.

Khurshid Ahmed Sheikh, 45, intercepted the GK vehicle at Azad Gunj saying, "I have left my home as the soldiers were hell-bent on our coming out for polls."

People in various localities of the apple town of Sopur took to the streets to demonstrate in protest against the coercive demand by the Indian Army to vote. The demonstrations were held at Tawheed Bagh New colony, Neherpora, Baba Yousuf, and Muslim Peer while at Neherpora, they beat several protesters. One of them, Abdul Majid Shah, suffered serious head injury and was admitted in the local hospital.

No mediaperson from various TV channels, includingStar News, Aaj Tak and CNN heeded the pleas for attention by the agitated people of New Colony, Tawheed Bagh, Baba Yousuf and other localities.

In Lalad, Amargarh, and the Sopur town, the people said soldiers threatened them with dire consequences if they abstained from voting. "Earlier in the morning vehicles fitted with public address system were pressed into service to order the people for casting their votes."

In Sangrampora in Sopore town (Centre No 67) with a total of 1276 voters, the voting was zero per cent at about 3.30 p.m. Only two voters out of 509 exercised their democratic right till 1.10 p.m at Shahabad Centre No 66 at Sopore.

Reports of coercion were also received from various places of the adjoining Rafiabad constituency, including Achhabal, Watrigam, Rawoocha, Dangiwacha, Hadipora and Reban. Everywhere, security forces dragged people out to cast their votes.

Likewise, in Bandipore constituency of Varmul district, security forces forced the voters out at Lowdara, Lankreshipora and some other villages. At Lowdara, just one vote had been cast till noon but after the villagers were forced out, the turnout was 177 out of 958 till the voting ended.

At another village, the security forces beat a villager. He bled through his nose. When a newsman asked a security force official why he was beaten, the later responded thus: "Hamein uppar se order hain ki ziadah se ziadah logon se vote dalwain (We are under orders from above to ensure more and more voter participation)."

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Pakistan must take serious notice of sham elections and violations of resolutions. The resolutions agreed upon between India & Pakistan call for the right of Kashmiris for self-determination before any elections can be considered legal or valid.

Sham Elections can only bring shame and ridicule for India. These also unveil India's desperation to hold on to its occupation of Kashmir via brutal & genocidal means.

 

The News International, Tuesday, October 29, 2002
IHK polls ploy fails

Humera Niazi

The writer is a freelance journalist

It was just another election 'under the gun' in the area, which is known as Indian occupied Kashmir. The completion of the phased state polls has once again not changed the ground realities over there. It was a well-predicted venture, which forecast a boycott, a low turn out and an element of violence. It is quite thought provoking to comprehend what were the objectives the Indian government was trying to achieve while conducting such an electoral exercise and at the same time emphasising that it would be a free and fair process. Was the Indian government trying to portray to the international community and the US in particular that the people in the occupied territory are satisfied with the presence of seven lakh troops and that there is no freedom struggle underway there.

But, maintaining such a posture by India would be contradictory and wear out with time because the ground situation remains uncertain, there being no improvement ever since a thirteen year old uprising erupted, drawing strength from its legality, documented in UN resolutions for implementing a plebiscite which has been denied. Ironically though, the very beginning of the self- determination movement by the Kashmiri people was marked by a boycott of the elections. Ever since the Indian government has repeatedly conducted fraud elections, being acknowledged such by. international media. So it becomes difficult to believe how could the present exercise in Kashmir prove to be otherwise with claims of being free and fair.

What is significant is that the APHC, which is accepted as being a representative organisation, had taken a decision to boycott elections. This had a marked impact on the credibility of the whole election in Kashmir, as being the first major obstruction in conducting an electoral process. In adopting a policy of boycott and making it workable, the APHC has sent a message to the international community that an election cannot take place. It also made it clear that:

* The rejectionist stance adopted by them is that they want plebiscite, whereas India is only concentrating on governance.

* The APHC employing the option of boycott and a questionable low turn out, proved the fact as stated in the UN SC resolution 122:that elections cannot be a substitute for a UN plebiscite.

Ever since the boycott there is the low turn out factor from the very beginning

When the international community evinced interest in the elections in Kashmir, India responded by holding the elections without international monitoring of the polling. Colin Powell in his visit to India had expressed the view that the elections in Kashmir should be free and fair.

The voter turnout claims by the Indian government are not acceptable as there is no determining factor. The other view is that the Indian government is not correct in claiming a 40 percent voter turn out. The APHC representative stated that a zero has been added to the four by the Indians. The Kashmir Media Service had reported that at 1400 hours on first day there was only 10 percent voting in Karnah, five percent in Langate, one percent on Sopore and Barmulla, eight percent in Rafiabad, 12 percent each in Sonawrai and Uri, four percent in Sangrama , thus raising the question as to how did it touch 50 percent in only two hours. Further the official media which announced 12 percent in Rajouri, 20 percent in Nowshera, 20 percent in Buddhal,15 percent in Darhal, five percent votes in Thanamandi, no vote at Drusan, six percent in Manjakote and only one percent each at Mendhar and Surankote. These are not very impressive (voting) figures. How would the international community rate this voter turnout situation if there is nothing substantive to support the Indian claim. This pattern of a low turn out was obvious right till the fourth phase on October 8, in Doda and Kupwara, where there was a shutdown strike scenario to a boycott appeal .These observations could not have been lost to international opinion.

There was poll related violence much before the election, that is only with the very announcement of election date on August 2, some seven hundred people have died. Coercive measures have been taken by the troops deployed by India. In addition to the 237 companies of the central reserve police force, 160 more companies were inducted ahead of the second polling phase in order to terrorise the people. It was ironic that India was claiming success in holding elections on the premise that there has been less polls violence, which can hardly be a reason for avoiding a dialogue for discussing the real situation in Kashmir. Further what is logical is the questioning as to how can free and fair polling take place in the presence of seven lakh Indian troops?

At a time when there is a lot of international focus on held Kashmir elections and the mention of dialogue, it became very important for the boycott appeal by the APHC to be successful which it had proven by strengthening its cause internationally. India has not been able to achieve high voter turn out and also failed to include APHC in the process. This would now tend to bring India under international pressure to open a dialogue with Pakistan to find a solution on the Kashmir issue.

It appeared earlier that the Indian government had a dual approach that while it set up a Kashmir committee, at the same time it announced elections. The APHC rightly reacted to these Indian tactics by accepting talks without falling into the Indian trap for participating in a fake electoral process which would only give credibility to the Indian government. APHC's decision to boycott the election came at a time when the Kashmir freedom movement was at a crucial

stage. The next important step for the APHC is to reject Indian's compromise strategy which plays the 'autonomy' card, something which had failed earlier. There is international concern for a solution of the Kashmir conflict through a dialogue because both Pakistan and India had massed a million troops on the common border and LoC creating a dangerous situation.

A paramount factor that should effect a future change in the crisis in occupied Kashmir is the total defeat of the national conference, with stalwarts such as Omar Abdullah, Dr Mushtaq Kamal, Abdul Ahad Wakeel and Sakina Itoo losing their seats. Omar Abdullah's defeat from his home constituency of Gander is seen as the closing of a long chapter in occupied Kashmir

Then last but also very important is that India has to take international concern more seriously. There was at Almaty the reaffirmation of the right for self-determination at an international level with concern for the danger of a wider Indo-Pak conflict. US expressed the view that it would favour an Indo-Pak dialogue on Kashmir. Colin Powell had suggested 'the first step' thesis on his Indian visit which is significant. The US stance is that elections would be a first positive step, further distinguishing between an electoral process and a solution of Kashmir. But the US should also logically consider the realities, as these question a 'first step' at a time when there are occupation troops in Kashmir and the situation is worsening.

It is time India opts to quit occupied Kashmir and gives dialogue a chance.

 

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