The sudden disqualification of “Prime Minister” Sardar Ilyas Tanveer has given rise to many doubts about the decision-making process. Media reports suggest that the court was informed via social media that Ilyas had been making derogatory remarks about the judiciary … writes Dr Sakariya Kareem
Pakistan suffered an embarrassing setback when the self-proclaimed “Prime Minister” of “Azad Jammu and Kashmir” (AJK) or Pakistan-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK), Sardar Ilyas Tanveer, was disqualified for contempt of court. On April 11, PoJK’s so-called “High Court” declared him unfit to be a member of the “legislative assembly” due to contempt charges and from holding any public office for two years.
This decision came after Ilyas was summoned to the PoJK “Supreme Court” and high court for using derogatory language about the superior judiciary during his public speeches. It is noteworthy that Ilyas belongs to Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and is the first serving PoJK “prime minister” to be disqualified on contempt charges. This development is another example of how the phoney political setups in the occupied territories of J&K in Pakistan are failing miserably and causing immense suffering for the local population.
Ilyas was a known troublemaker and had frequently clashed with leaders from other political parties and his own party leaders. During the inauguration of the refurbishment project of Units 5 and 6 of the Mangla Dam Hydroelectric Power Plant last year, he engaged in a heated exchange with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Ilyas publicly criticised Shehbaz for failing to acknowledge the “sacrifices made by the Kashmiri people for the progress and prosperity of Pakistan” during the ceremony. In response to the embarrassment caused, Sharif retaliated by sealing the Centaurus Mall in Islamabad, which was owned by Ilyas’ family.
According to a statement released by a member of Ilyas’s family, “Following the heated exchange between the Prime Ministers of PoJK and Pakistan at the event in Mangla, the government ordered the CDA to seal the building at 3am as retaliation.”
Ilyas lamented the political victimisation inflicted upon him by the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government following the mall sealing incident. He had hoped to garner public support for the PTI but was unsuccessful. In last December, he alleged that the ruling PDM was trying to topple his government in PoJK by bribing his party lawmakers. Since taking on his so-called premiership in last April, PoJK has suffered greatly. The occupied regions of J&K are currently facing severe shortages of essential food items and fuel, as Pakistan approaches an imminent financial default.
Regular protests and sit-ins have taken place in these areas, yet the local political leadership has failed to address the people’s demands. It is noteworthy that the ruling party in power in Islamabad usually governs PoJK as well. However, with a PTI leader in power in PoJK and the PDM government in Islamabad, matters have become far more complicated in the occupied territory. With Ilyas’s replacement being another PTI leader, Chaudhry Anwarul Haq, the ongoing political turmoil in PoJK is likely to worsen in the coming months.
After Haq’s surprising appointment as the new Prime Minister of PoJK in a rushed late night assembly session, Ilyas released a statement expressing his concerns, “Today, I have come to know about the machinations of Haq. On the one hand he was assuring PTI leadership of his efforts to save the party, on the other he was striking a deal with the establishment.”
Interestingly, Haq was named a “joint candidate” of the combined opposition and a 12-member PTI ‘forward bloc’ in PoJK’s legislative assembly, which appeared to resolve a weeklong deadlock caused by Ilyas’s disqualification. On April 12, the PoJK Supreme Court had rejected Ilyas’s appeal challenging his disqualification on “technical grounds,” paving the way for other PTI leaders to take his place. However, on April 15, the Tehreek-e-Jawanan Pakistan and Kashmir (TJPK) leadership rejected the “unconstitutional decision” and announced the Justice Movement for Leader of PoJK Sardar Tanveer Illyas, which would begin after Eid-ul-Fitr holidays in Pakistan.
The protestors denounced the decision, “We do not accept these rules of oppression, we do not accept these decisions of repression, the unconstitutional decision against Sardar Tanveer Ilyas is unacceptable, these rules of oppression are unacceptable.” These reactions suggest that the Pakistan Army used local courts in PoJK to remove Ilyas from power.
The sudden disqualification of Ilyas has given rise to many doubts about the decision-making process. Media reports suggest that the court was informed via social media that Ilyas had been making derogatory remarks about the judiciary. The court was also presented with a “newspaper clip” of his speech, prompting the Council of Judges to issue a notice to Ilyas on April 10. Based on prima facie evidence, Ilyas was disqualified from office within 24 hours of the notice being issued. It is unprecedented for a serving prime minister of PoJK to be removed from office without proper court proceedings.
Despite the central leadership of PTI calling for respect for the courts’ decision, Ilyas’s dismissal is a blow to Imran Khan’s party, which is currently embroiled in a power struggle with the ruling PDM government and the military establishment. The ensuing political drama in PoJK is likely to exacerbate the problems faced by the local population.