Pakistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir Elections: June/July 2021 (proposed – date not set yet)

Muzaffarabad, capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The city is located in a valley at the confluence of the Neelam and Jhelum rivers. Photo credit: Photo credit: Wikimedia/Obaid747 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Freedom House Rating

Partly Free (except Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which is rated Not Free)
Government Type
Federal Parliamentary Republic
233 million
Azad Jammu and Kashmir Assembly Elections
June/July 2021 (proposed – date not set yet)
General Elections
By August 2023 (snap possible)
Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly Elections
November 15, 2020
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Legislative Assembly (partial)

July 20, 2019
General Elections (Parliamentary and provincial)
July 25, 2018

Pakistan’s administrative territory of Gilgit-Baltistan (the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir) will hold elections for its Legislative Assembly on November 15, 2020, following delays. The current assembly members’ terms ended in June, and political parties have opposed the delay. In addition, Pakistan is due to have indirect Senate elections in March.

Political Context

Pakistan has various administrative units that elect their own legislatures. The four provinces (Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh) elect their legislatures at the same time as general elections. Gilgit-Baltistan and the territory of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (often simply called Azad Kashmir or AJK) hold their elections at other times. Gilgit-Baltistan held elections in November 2020

Whither Pakistan-Administered Kashmir? Disputed Territory and Democracy Deficit

Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are administrative territories whose status has been somewhat in flux because all of the ongoing dispute between Pakistan and India over Kashmir. In short, their statuses as autonomous administrative territories – as opposed to provinces fully incorporated into Pakistan’s political structure – has the potential to keep tensions with India on a low boil.

The downside to the arrangement is a democracy deficit. Both only recently got their own legislatures. India opposed the legislative assemblies and routinely objects vociferously to the holding of elections in Pakistani Kashmir (Pakistan responded to recent criticism by pointing out that India holds elections in the India-controlled parts of Kashmir). Moreover, political freedom is restricted.

Moreover, while the people are now able to elect local representatives, the territories still aren’t represented in Pakistan’s federal parliament in Islamabad, and the national government maintains control over key government functions. A 2019 Pakistani Supreme Court ruling provided for representation in parliament subject to a resolution of the Kashmir dispute – which does not look likely to be resolved anytime soon.

On November 1, 2020, the prime minister granted Gilgit-Baltistan “provisional provincial status”

Pakistan’s National Political Context 

Following Pakistan’s turbulent 2018 general election, former cricket star Imran Khan – seen as the military’s preferred candidate – became prime minister when his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) won the most seats. Conversely, the main opposition parties are former prime minister Nawaz Sharif‘s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), founded by Zulfikar Bhutto and still led by members of the Bhutto family.

In October 2020, 11 of Pakistan’s opposition parties, including the PML and the PPP, united to form the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), ahead of indirect Senate elections in March. In those elections, PTI failed to win a majority, a major political hit for Imra nKhan.

Geopolitical Context

The entire Kashmir region, which borders Afghanistan and China’s Xinjiang Province, is a geopolitical hotspot. Both India and Pakistan claim the entirety of Kashmir, and it has sparked several wars. The region remains heavily militarized.

The India-controlled part of Kashmir has been in crisis since August 2019. In a surprise move, the Modi government made a unilateral decision to strip the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir of its autonomy. For seventy years, the Indian-controlled part – established as the state of Jammu and Kashmir and India’s only Muslim-majority state – enjoyed a high degree of autonomy, but Modi announced that the state would be downgraded into two union territories, effectively centralizing control. The area remains on lockdown a year later. The situation has unsurprisingly exacerbated tensions between India and Pakistan.

Meanwhile, China has been ramping up its presence in the region. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a centerpiece of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, runs through Gilgit-Baltistan. Some analysts argue that making Gilgit-Baltistan a province would benefit China.

Curated News and Analysis

Tariq Naqash, Dawn (April 28, 2021): AJK EC prepares action plan for smooth conduct of polls

Geo News (April 27, 2021): PML-N warns government against rigging in AJK elections

Sumaira GH, Urdu Point (April 26, 2021): Free, Fair Polls In AJK To Boost Kashmir Liberation Struggle: AJK President

Business Recorder (April 18, 2021): PTI interviews 300 candidates for upcoming AKJ elections

CBS News/AFP (April 7, 2021): Pakistan’s prime minister under fire for linking rise in rape cases to how women dress

Asad Hashim, Al Jazeera (March 6, 2021): Pakistani PM Khan wins vote of confidence amid opposition boycott

Haroon Janjua, DW (March 4, 2021): Pakistan: Senate election deals a blow to Imran Khan

Ghulam Abbas, Pakistan Today (November 30, 2020): PTI’s Khalid Khursheed elected as GB [Chief Minister]

Frud Bezhan, Gandhara (November 25, 2020): ‘Perfect Storm’ Could Compel Pakistan To Change Status Of Disputed Territory In Kashmir

The Economist (November 24, 2020): Flare-ups between India and Pakistan in Kashmir are getting fiercer

Jayant Sriram, The Hindu (November 24, 2020): Pakistan’s move in Gilgit-Baltistan and what it means for India | The Hindu In Focus podcast

Tom Hussain, South China Morning Post (November 19, 2020): Protests erupt near Pakistan’s China border over vote-rigging claims in Gilgit-Baltistan

Sudha Ramachandran, The Diplomat (November 14, 2020): The Complex Calculus Behind Gilgit-Baltistan’s Provincial Upgrade

Sana Jamal, Gulf News (November 8, 2020): Political and religious parties step up efforts to win 2020 Gilgit-Baltistan elections

Sajjad Ahmad, Dawn (November 8, 2020): GB’s historic polls

Ian Bremmer, Time (October 26, 2020): What Happens Next in Pakistan Now That the Opposition Has Come Together

Shamil Shams, DW (October 25, 2020): Who is Maryam Nawaz, the face of Pakistan’s anti-government movement?

Manzar Shigri and Yasil Munim, Samaa (October 24, 2020): Explainer: Gilgit-Baltistan elections 2020 likely PTI-PPP showdown

Ravi Agrawal, Foreign Policy (October 22, 2020): Why Pakistanis Are Daring to Criticize Their Military

Syed Raza Hassan, Reuters (October 18, 2020): Pakistan opposition holds mass rally calling for PM Khan to go

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, Foreign Policy (October 12, 2020): Pakistan Is Doing Its Own Political Reengineering in Kashmir

Al Jazeera (October 6, 2020): Pakistan ex-president charged for corruption, ex-pm with sedition

Umair Jamal, The Diplomat (September 29, 2020): Will Pakistan’s Military Hold a Free and Fair Election in Gilgit-Baltistan?

Press Trust of India (September 24, 2020): Pak Announces Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly Polls, India Objects

Abhijnan Rej, The Diplomat (September 23, 2020): Could Pakistan Move to Make Gilgit-Baltistan a New Province Soon?

Muhammed Amir Rana, DAWN Pakistan (July 26, 2020): Political Landscape of GB

Priyanjoli Ghosh, The Geopolitics (May 12, 2020): Gilgit-Baltistan Elections: A Reason Behind Continuous Friction in the Status of Kashmir

The Hindu (May 4, 2020): India protests Pakistan Supreme Court move to allow elections in Gilgit Baltistan

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, The Diplomat (February 16, 2019): Gilgit-Baltistan: Pakistan’s Geopolitical Loophole

21votes does not necessarily agree with all of the opinions expressed in the linked articles; rather, our goal is to curate a wide range of voices. Furthermore, none of the individuals or organizations referenced have reviewed 21votes’ content, and their inclusion should not be taken to imply that they endorse us in any way. More on our approach here.

Updated May 11, 2021

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