Kashmiris watch Pakistan elections with interest

Srinagar: Pakistan elections on Wednesday evoked keen interest in Jammu and Kashmir as people here remained glued to television and radios to know the latest as the voting progressed.

Many were disappointed after last week the district magistrates in the valley ordered suspension of 30 television channels being aired from Pakistan and other places outside India.

“There is no denying the fact that developments in Pakistan have a direct bearing on Kashmir.

“A stable political government there can engage meaningfully with India to work for peace in Kashmir,” said Manzoor Ahmad, 62, a retired bank officer.

As people from different places of the valley showed keen interest in Pakistan polls, the one place that remained abuzz with speculations and prophesies was the old city area of Srinagar.

Traditionally known as the hotbed of separatist sentiment in the Kashmir Valley, people in Srinagar downtown were seen engaged in discussion on the future of democracy in Pakistan.

“Even if all of us believe that the army of Pakistan is the strongest institution there, yet the strongest dictatorship is no alternative to even the weakest of democracies,” said Abdul Salaam, 57, a shopkeeper in the old city area.

Even the youth who otherwise show no particular interest in politics seemed to be concerned about the future of democracy in Pakistan.

“Given the level of violence we have seen ahead of the Pakistan polls, holding the elections is a great effort.

“Those who want us to believe that it is a fixed match are actually trying to undermine democracy in that country.

“I have no doubt once a democratic government takes over, a window would open for talks between India and Pakistan,” said Suhail, 25, a varsity student.

While the common man on the street spoke frankly about what he expects from these elections, politicians of both mainstream and separatist groups remained tight-lipped.

Six persons were killed and several injured on Wednesday in sporadic incidents of violence as millions of voters queued up outside polling stations amid tight security across Pakistan to elect a new government in its 11th general election.

While polling stations officially opened for voting at 8 a.m., many were found waiting outside their respective booths as early as 7 a.m, Dawn News website said. Voting will end at 6 p.m.