Voting for the assembly in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) is underway on Sunday. 3.2 million voters can exercise their right to vote to elect 45 members. India had previously opposed Pakistan’s decision to hold elections in Gilgit-Baltistan, saying there was no legal right to act to change the status of the territory occupied by the military.
There are a total of 53 members of the PoK Legislative Assembly, but among them only 45 can be directly elected. Of these, five seats are reserved for women and three for scientific experts. A tough triangular competition is expected between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
The PTI fielded candidates for the 45 elected constituencies while the PML-N and PPP fielded candidates for 44 seats. The radical Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), banned by the Pakistani government in April for its violent activities, is seeking 40 seats.
The Pakistan Election Commission did not revoke the TLP’s registration after the ban, which also allows it to participate in the elections. 33 constituencies are located in the PoK while 12 seats are reserved for refugees settled in different cities of Pakistan.
In addition to ticket holders from various political parties, a total of 261 independent candidates are also vying for 33 seats in the PoK while 56 independents are vying for 12 refugee seats. Traditionally, the country’s ruling party wins PoK elections. The last elections to the PoK assembly were held in July 2016 and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif won the elections.
According to a Gallup Pakistan election poll, 44% of people support Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party, while its closest rival, the PML-N, has 12% of voters.