The election outcome in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir has produced a deadlock over the formation of a coalition government, for which the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were in talks. Elections were concluded on December 20 last with the PDP emerging as the single largest party with 28 seats, BJP with 25 seats, National Conference (NC) with 15 and Congress 12 seats. No consensus could be reached between PDP and BJP and this has led to the imposition of Governor’s Rule in the State. Since 1977, it is the sixth time that Governor’s rule has been imposed in Indian-held Kashmir.
The recurrent dilemma is owed to the failure of any political party to gain the requisite majority in the 87-member Assembly and the inability of rival parties to agree on a power sharing formula. The electoral meltdown of the previously incumbent party, the NC, was inevitable as the poor state of the economy amid flooding last year and the continuing Indian forces’ repression are some of the factors to be counted as contributing to its defeat. The latest development will further alienate the Kashmiri people because of a lack of local representation or say in the running of the government. Kashmiris already have mixed feelings about elections under the shadow of the gun, characterised for years by a complete boycott by the All Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC), an alliance of 26 political, social and religious organizations.
It is not a new situation for the State as political instability has become part and parcel of the last 67 years’ history. Since 1948, the Indian government has been running the political affairs of Jammu and Kashmir through massive military deployment. This has become a permanent reality. Lobbies in both India and Pakistan help to further escalate the situation. In the unlikely case that peace breaks out, both Pakistan and India could save considerable military expenditure. Kashmir has long been a festering wound.
A historic compromise is needed among all stakeholders, Pakistan, India and the people of Kashmir. A permanent peace in the region requires certain measures from both sides, which may include but are not limited to demilitarisation of the area, trade and economic cooperation, resolution of all issues through a meaningful dialogue and an internal political settlement between the Indian government and the people of Kashmir. So far, the vision and strong political will needed for such a desirable outcome is missing. Unless the governments of Pakistan and India accept the intractable ground realities and give peace a chance, the people of Pakistan, India and Kashmir will continue to pay the prohibitive costs of one of the oldest conflicts on the globe. *
-editorial note Daily Times, 11 Jan 2015-