ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's regional president Sardar Tanveer Ilyas was on Monday elected as new "premier" of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) in an election boycotted by the Opposition. Khan nominated Ilyas as the party's candidate after his hand-picked "premier" Sardar Abdul Qayyum Niazi resigned on Thursday following a revolt in the ruling party against him.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) jointly fielded Chaudhry Yasin against Ilyas. The united opposition boycotted the session for the election of the prime minister, leaving no candidate in the race against Ilyas.
The PTI leader secured 33 votes in his favour, the Dawn newspaper reported. Niazi had resigned on Thursday after 25 lawmakers of his party moved a resolution of no-confidence motion against him. His ouster came days after Khan lost a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly, becoming the first Pakistan prime minister to be removed unceremoniously from power.
Niazi came to power last year after PTI secured 32 seats in the 53-member House. India had rejected the elections in PoK, saying the "cosmetic exercise" was nothing but an attempt by Pakistan to "camouflage its illegal occupation".
Reacting strongly on the elections in the PoK, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said that Pakistan has "no locus standi on these Indian territories" and it must vacate all Indian areas under its illegal occupation.
"The so-called elections in Indian territory under the illegal occupation of Pakistan are nothing but an attempt by Pakistan to camouflage its illegal occupation and the material changes undertaken by it in these territories," he had said.
"Such an exercise can neither hide the illegal occupation by Pakistan nor the grave human rights violations, exploitation, and denial of freedom to people in these occupied territories," Bagchi said.
The ruling party lawmakers had charged Niazi with "loss of the trust of the parliamentary party, failure to highlight Kashmir issue and implement party manifesto in addition to bad governance, nepotism and violation of merit".
Ilyas is a billionaire and he was favourite for the post of the prime minister last year after the PTI won elections. But Khan appointed little-known Niazi, leaving many PTI lawmakers wondering at the choice. Many observers believe that Ilyas's wealth is more than anything that has forced Khan to change his mind after his removal through a no-confidence vote.
Financial support of the party's rich leaders would be critical for PTI to make a come back at the national level through elections which may be held by the end of the year.