Srinagar: The counting of votes for Jammu and Kashmir’s first ever District Development Council (DDC) elections began at 9 am Tuesday, but poll officials are yet to begin counting the votes in two of the 280 seats.
This is because in these two constituencies, Drugmulla in Kupwara and Sonawari in Bandipora, the administration has received complaints that two women from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) had fought the polls.
The two candidates are Somiya Sadaf from Drugmulla and Shazia Aslam from Sonawari. They are among over 150 women from PoK, who were brought via Nepal and settled in Kashmir along with their ex-militant husbands, as part of a policy of rehabilitation initiated by the Omar Abdullah government in 2010.
A senior government official said the district authorities had made all the preparations necessary to conduct counting on the two seats, but no directions had been received to start the process.
How were the nominations accepted?
Speaking to ThePrint, Somiya Sadaf raised questions on the motive behind not starting the counting in her constituency, and asked why the question of her citizenship didn’t arise at the time of filing nominations or during the poll campaign.
“Some officials at the polling centre informed me that counting did not start, and when I asked the reason, they simply told me that it’s due to me being from Pakistan. If this is the case, why didn’t this issue come up earlier when I filed my nomination or campaigned?” she asked.
When ThePrint put the question to State (sic) Election Commissioner K.K. Sharma — that how were two PoK women were allowed to file nominations and campaign if the government wanted to check their citizenship papers — he said the authorities had received references about the cases “recently”, and he would be holding discussions on the issue.
“We will inform you about our decision soon,” said Sharma
According to government sources, the two candidates’ nomination papers for the DDC polls were “complete” — all documents required by the authorities were in order.
“Preliminary findings suggested that the documents the two candidates submitted were in place and complete. However, if there is a larger investigation on their citizenship, more identification papers will be sought from the two candidates,” a second senior government official said.
This official added that the complaints were filed with the SEC’s office, following which a “factual report” was sought from the district offices.
“The factual reports were received by the SEC’s office last week,” said the second official.
(An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that Somiya Sadaf’s constituency Drugmulla is in Baramulla. It is in Kupwara. The error is regretted.)