Wednesday, 27 July 2016

A Request for Suspension of the Process to elect Members on the 8 Reserved Seats in the AJK Legislative Assembly

The Chief Election Commissioner
Kothi No.1 - AJK Assembly Secretariat Grounds
Muzaffarabad - AJK

Fax No: 05822 921695

Given the need for merit, transparency and inclusion in matters of public policy in AJK, as intimated by the president of the winning party in the recent polls, namely Raja Farooq Haider: I wish to request your intervention in suspending the process of ‘electing’ of the 8 reserved seats in the Legislative Assembly, on account of these 3 aforementioned values not being apparent in the process so far.

 It has been confirmed to me by key newly elected members of the Assembly, as well as key figures in civil society that, the role of technocrat in AJK's Legislative Assembly as well as the other 7 seats have already been decided - as part of political (and financial) compulsions of the winning party. This ridicules the process of taking applications from the public at large and charging each application 10,000 rupees for doing so. It also presents an impression that the ‘winner takes all’, thereby narrowing the concept of public interest and subjecting it to the whims of the winning party.

Having spent 11 years and over 3 months in researching all matters of public significance in AJK - without interruption or diversion as I’ve neither been an employee or an employer during this period - furthermore, that all public interest research that I conduct is almost wholly paid by the public at large, puts me in a historically unprecedented position of initiating a public debate on constitutional reform. The fact that Act 74 and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution are in essence temporary and remain so after 69 years, is clear indication that the initiative to resolve constitutional ambiguity rests with the citizens of the territory in question viz. The State of Jammu & Kashmir. The specific area which has always described itself as ‘base camp’, ultimately needs to give attention to this matter.

This cannot be done by following the deep-rooted tradition of hidden deals (highest bidder) and selection of undeserving citizens to public office without giving a clear, transparent and meritocratic opportunity to skilled citizens of the territory to participate in governance and legislation, thereby proving that we have an inclusive process.
How do we expect the world to give attention to our plight and perhaps more specifically, our co-citizens across the LOC in the Valley of Kashmir, who given the current status of geo-politics are waiting for us to clarify our constitutional status?

In societies where public interest and public policy merge is where beautiful events occur and drive society forward. If we don’t strive for such an ideal, we are wasting all our precious time, energy and resources in deepening the paralysis that our society suffers from.

On a personal level, I could (and will) make constitutional reform a public debate in due course, irrespective of whether or not I obtain the technocrat’s seat in AJK’s legislative assembly. However, if this initiative is taken from within the assembly rather than without, it will be a less hazardous process and the credit will go to the legislators at large. Conversely, if the debate takes place on the streets, it will further expose the frailties of the Assembly.    

Meanwhile, as part of the application procedure for the technocrat’s seat, I had sought nomination from Raja Farooq Haider, who happens to be the one member whom I've spent most time with and - who in turn - is most familiar (amongst members), with my public interest research work. However, Mr. Haider's energy and time is being consumed in deflecting efforts to convince him to abdicate from the prospective prime minister's role. I have visited him on the 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th of this month. I cannot put my application for the role of technocrat in front of him when he is in this frame of mind. 

My humble but publicly concerted suggestion is to suspend the process of election for the 8 reserved seats, until a clear, transparent procedure where any and every citizen who feels that they meet the criteria, can participate in the nomination process.

Yours in earnest

Tanveer Ahmed
An independent researcher on public policy in AJK


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