Srinagar: Two women from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), who had contested the maiden District Development Council elections in Jammu and Kashmir, are hopeful about emerging victorious as they wait for counting of votes on their seats.
Somiya Sadaf and Shazia Aslam, both residents of Muzaffarabad in PoK, had fought the DDC polls from Kupwara’s Drugmulla and Bandipora’s Sonawari seats, respectively.
Counting on both the seats was deferred Tuesday after a complaint was filed against the two women, raising questions on their citizenship.
The J&K administration said an inquiry is ongoing to ascertain the citizenship of the two candidates.
Shazia, 45, told ThePrint she has all the documents needed by the government to clear her nomination papers.
“Allah has given me a chance to serve the people of Kashmir. I received a lot of love in Kashmir and now I want to work for the people here. I want to be part of the development of this place, help build roads, bring electricity and water. I want to work for the people and I am hoping the decision is in my favour,” she said.
Shazia and her husband, Mohammad Aslam, returned to J&K from Muzaffarabad, the capital city of PoK, in 2006. Aslam was among thousands of Kashmiri youth who left their homes in 1990 to receive arms training in Pakistan. He was then 20 years old.
Shazia and Aslam, now a private contractor, got married in 1996. They have three children, two sons and a daughter, who are now pursuing their education in Kashmir.
Aslam said: “All her documents were in place. I am not sure what has happened but my wife is hopeful that she will not be denied a chance to serve the people.”
Shazia, however, doesn’t hold an Indian passport.
Despite voting in multiple elections and holding an address proof and voter ID card, she had not applied for a passport, Aslam told ThePrint.
‘Hopeful a decision will be taken soon and in my favour’
Somiya, 42, meanwhile, said this is the fourth time “that I have voted. I voted for myself this time.”
“I was told there was an issue with my form-6 following which I produced the required documents. I am hopeful a decision will be taken soon and in my favour,” added Somiya, who did her graduation from Lahore in humanities.
Her husband, Abdul Majid Bhat, was 16 years old when he came to Muzaffarabad to receive arms training and be a part of the anti-India insurgency in J&K. Bhat, however, decided to stay back in PoK and finished his graduation from Lahore and Masters in English from National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad.
Somiya met Bhat during her graduation in 2002. The two got married the same year.
In June 2010, the couple returned to Kashmir via Kathmandu, under then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah government’s scheme of rehabilitation of former militants.
After coming to J&K, Somiya pursued her Masters through distance learning from Moulana Azad University in Hyderabad. She told ThePrint she has worked in her constituency under the JKSRLM (the State Rural Livelihood Mission). In 2018, she even represented “progressive women entrepreneurs” from J&K in a countrywide online interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Inquiry ongoing to ascertain citizenship of the two
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the returning officer in Drugmulla constituency directed the shift of the ballot boxes to the district Strong Room, indicating that the counting of the votes might not take place immediately. Ballot boxes in Sonawari were already shifted to the district Strong Room Wednesday.
Senior government officials in the Jammu and Kashmir administration said an inquiry will be launched to ascertain the citizenship of the two women even though names of both the women, according to sources, figure in voter lists and they have in fact voted in past J&K elections too.
Both the women told ThePrint they have voted multiple times and their names figure in the voter list as well. They also questioned as to why didn’t the citizenship issue come up at the time when they filed their nomination papers.
Although senior government officials acknowledged that the names of the two women are indeed in the voter list, they said that “documents required” to get listed in the electoral roll are easy to avail.
“The two women produced all the papers that are required by election candidates at the time of filing their nominations. However, the documents sought, which include residence proof, election card and so on, can be availed more easily. There is now an ongoing inquiry to ascertain whether the two women had applied for Indian citizenship,” an official said.
The official further added that the counting was deferred after a complaint was filed against the two women raising questions on their citizenship.
“We had given them (women) enough time to provide us with essential documents and proof to address the complaint, but we were not satisfied with the proof that was provided,” he said.
Meanwhile, senior Apni Party leader and former Congress MLA Usman Majeed told the media: “I ask whether PoK is part of the country as was made evident with the passage of a resolution in the Parliament.
“If yes, then how can these women from that part of the country be denied participation in the elections,” he said.
— 𝑲𝒂𝒔𝒉𝒎𝒊𝒓 𝗡𝗲𝘄𝘀 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 (@KNSKashmir) December 23, 2020