ISLAMABAD - Pakistan People’s Party chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is upbeat to expose the alleged pre-polls rigging by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his team in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir ahead of the June polls, close aides said yesterday.

The AJK Election Commission has announced that general elections will be held on June 26. Around 220,000 voters from Azad Kashmir and 610,000 Kashmiri refugees in Pakistan will exercise their right to vote, according to the official data.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has already announced candidates to run for the AJK Legislative Assembly elections while the PPP is collecting applications from the aspirants.

The PPP blames the PML-N government of pre-polls rigging. The party claims the visits of Prime Minister Sharif and his cabinet members before the June elections were designed to attract voters.

The PPP believes announcement of development projects at this point was tantamount to buying votes.

Recently, the incumbent lawmakers from AJK held a protest demonstration in front of the parliament building. They demanded of Prime Minister Sharif to sack Minister of Kashmir Affairs Barjees Tahir.

The protesters, led by AJK Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, also accused the federal government of misusing funds of Kashmir Council for pre-poll rigging.

Majeed claimed the Kashmir Council funds were being distributed among favourites which was an insult to the mandate of people.

Later, Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal had assured to redress AJK government’s grievances and promised to form a committee on this issue. PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also alleged pre-poll rigging by the government. The young party leader, returned from Dubai the previous day, after holding a few meetings in Karachi is expected to visit Islamabad as part of preparations for the AJK polls.

For the first time the PPP leader is going into a full-fledged election as head of a party. Until now, his father, Asif Ali Zardari has been taking all the important decisions but has passed on some powers to his son.

While the senior Zardari will continue to influence the major decisions, he is likely to accommodate inputs from Bilawal in the coming months, especially regarding the AJK polls and the reorganisation of the PPP.

Close aides said Bilawal will decide awarding of tickets for the AJK polls in consultations with his father.

A senior PPP leader told The Nation that Bilawal had started homework for the AJK polls and was upbeat to mobilise the party workers in the state before the polls in a bid to perform better - against expectations.

He said Bilawal will hold meetings with AJK polls candidates in Islamabad in the coming days and decide on party tickets.

“He wants to expose the government’s pre-poll rigging before the elections and has tasked the PPP leaders to gather evidence,” he added. He said the PPP will take the issue to the relevant authorities including the AJK Election Commission to stop the trend of buying votes.

“Bilawal believes the regular visits of the cabinet members and the prime minister’s generosity is not aimed at AJK development but winning the polls even before they are conducted,” the PPP leader said.

Another PPP leader said the party had launched a campaign to expose the government’s attempts to rig the AJK polls.

“Our people in AJK are collecting evidence. We will not allow the government to sweep the AJK polls without contest. Bilawal is also considering to visit AJK,” he maintained. PPP leader Faisal Karim Kundi claimed the government was using unfair means to win the AJK polls. “We are still hopeful of doing better but the government is trying to make it a one-way contest,” he contended.

Kundi said Bilawal was expected in Islamabad in the coming days and might take a decision to visit AJK for the election campaign. Other PPP leaders said a host of meetings were lined up for Bilawal when he is in Islamabad where key decisions on AJK polls and the reorganisation of the party will be taken.

“The AJK polls are atop agenda but we have time to discuss the reorganisation also. There will be a few meetings with the AJK candidates and the different chapters of the party (in Islamabad),” a close aide of the Bhutto family said.