ISLAMABAD: Who will become the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) prime minister– billionaire real estate tycoon Sardar Tanveer Ilyas or veteran politician and former AJK PM Barrister Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry?
Had one of the two been beaten in Sunday’s general elections, there would be no doubt that the other would have clinched the top slot. The victory of both has proved that they are strong enough in their respective constituencies to overcome their rivals.
Tanveer Ilyas and Sultan Mahmood remained confined to their constituencies during the poll campaign and could not run the PTI’s electioneering across AJK to present themselves as leaders with electoral appeal throughout the state.
While contesting the Bagh seat, Tanveer Ilyas remained the special assistant to the Punjab chief minister on investment, a position he has held since long. Ilyas is well known in federal capital circles for owning a famous multi-storey shopping mall cum residential complex located in the main business hub of Islamabad as well as a private housing society. His son Yasir is the president of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industries.
The ball is now in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s court. He will soon have to pick either of the two leading contenders to nominate as prime minister. Odds are that Tanveer Ilyas will carry the day because of his high-level connections. Common logic suggests that he would not have been inclined to contest the elections just to become a member of the AJK Legislative Assembly or just a minister in a cabinet headed by Sultan Mahmood or anybody else.
The PTI’s comfortable victory in AJK has strengthened Imran Khan’s hands to take this key decision without any pressure from his legislators-elect. He needs no ally to form the government.
Tanveer Ilyas became formally associated with the PTI only after he was given its ticket for the Bagh seat. He originally belongs to Rawalakot but opted for this constituency for the electoral scramble having a considerable influence in the area. He had correctly gauged his position and reinforced his prospects by managing the withdrawal from the contest of the former chief of the AJK chapter of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Abdur Rashid Turabi, who was expelled by his party for his unilateral decision. This constituency was the first stop for Imran Khan during his campaign trail, showing the significance he had attached to it.
Former Prime Minister Sultan Mahmood is a veteran Kashmiri leader, who had been elected to the AJKLA multiple times like his father the late Chaudhry Noor Hussain. In 2016, he was routed by his traditional challenger from his native Mirpur constituency. However, he got the seat back in a by-election that was held after the disqualification of the winner in 2019. He defeated the same PML-N candidate this time too.
Sultan Mahmood joined the PTI in 2015 when he was an AJKLA member belonging to the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which had earlier made him the prime minister of the state. He also heads the AJK chapter of the PTI. While this was the first-ever huge triumph of the PTI in AJK, it was not a departure from the past. A party ruling the federal government in Islamabad has always comfortably succeeded in the AJK elections.
In 2011, the PPP, that then controlled the federal government, had won the polls and formed the AJK government. In 2016, the PML-N, which was then ruling the federation, had left every other contesting party behind and emerged victorious in the general elections.
Among other reasons, the major reason for such an outcome is the dominant position of the central government in Islamabad, particularly its ability to allot funds for AJK and have its nominees as the chief secretary and inspector general of police in the state.
Today, the PTI has obtained almost the same number of seats that the PML-N had won five years ago. Interestingly, the 45 directly contested seats have mainly been shared by the PTI, PPP and PML-N. The Kashmir People’s Party and All J&K Muslim Conference bagged one seat each.
Former prime ministers, including Farooq Haider, Sultan Mahmood and Sardar Attique, and ex-president Sardar Yaqoob also succeeded in the polls. However, Farooq Haider faced a rout in one of the two constituencies he contested.