The bottom line of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir election is that the PML-N has won for the first time. And once again, the party ruling in Islamabad has won power in Muzaffarabad. The election was not held because of the renewed tension in Indian-Held Kashmir, but because Kashmir has gone to the polls with metronomic regularity since 1985, after the Zia Martial Law was allowed to interrupt the constitutional rule that has begun with the commencement of the AJK Constitution to coincide with that of the Pakistan Constitution back in 1973.

AJK is not a province of Pakistan, but a Free State. Ireland was a Free State after its post-World War I expulsion of the British in 1922 until 1937 informally, and then officially in 1948, when it became a republic. After Partition, the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir witnessed a rebellion against the Dogra Maharaja, who wanted the state to join India, and the people, who wanted to join Pakistan. The part that was liberated, and opted to join Pakistan, was not absorbed into the new country, but was made a Free State. Unlike Ireland, it did not issue passports, but its citizens travelled on Pakistani passports. They were made Pakistani citizens, with their own quota in the Pakistani services, and eligibility for the military. They paid Pakistani taxes, and obeyed Pakistani laws. Their Constitution was an adaption of the Pakistan Constitution, though it provided that it was only an interim one until the fate of the entire State was decided. It is instructive that while the Nineteenth Amendment was needed to bring the Pakistani Constitution back into its original shape, the AJK Constitution was left in operation as it originally was.

The Indian occupation of the bulk of the state, and the subsequent conversion of Held Kashmir into a state of the Indian Union, has been traumatic for Pakistan as well as AJK. Because of that, the uprising in Held Kashmir after the killing of freedom fighter Burhan Wani has struck a chord not just in Pakistan, but also in AJK. AJK has often been described, using a mountaineering metaphor, as a base camp for Kashmiri self-determination.

However, the parties in AJK compete as branches of the Pakistani parties. One reason is that AJK voters may not have a vote in a Pakistani constituency, but they can. Indeed, one Punjab MPA was also an AJK MLA. Previously, parties would be formally separate, but now the trend is for branches of the parties to contest. For the first time, the contest was between AJK branches of the PML-N and the PPP. Gone are the days when the Muslim Conference (AJKMC) of Sardar Abdul Qayyum and his son Sardar Atique Ahmad competed with the AJK Peoples Party. This year saw a contest between the PML-N and the PPP. The newest kid on the block was the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf. Symptomatically, it had never any affiliated AJK party. The AMC and the AKPP did not disappear entirely, with Sardar Atique and Sardar Khalid Ibrahim respectively contesting on those tickets, but neither party put up a full slate of candidates, and the defeat of most of their candidates thus did not keep them out of office.

While the PPP has sullenly accepted its defeat, and the PML-N crowed about its victory, the PTI is showing its inability to accept its defeat. Much is being made of the result, whereby with 689,000 votes, it has won 32 of the 40 seats of the Legislative Assembly, while the PTI with 383,000 votes and the PPP with 352,000 won two each. The comparison of 689,000 votes winning 32 seats and 735,000 winning four is striking, but reflects a first-past-the-post electoral system.

Such a system is indeed defective except for the special case of a two-party system, and if one is to retain single-member constituencies, the most recognised solution is the French two-round system, with the top two candidates going into a second round if no candidate wins a simple majority in the first.

However, the PTI would probably not argue for such a system. It would imply a trenchant critique of the British first-past-the-post system, which party chief Imran Khan generally holds up as an exemplar by his praise of the UK. Another party might opt for such criticism, but not such a party as the PTI, which bases its appeal on the plank of electoral reform.

Another incorrect assumption is that the PTI and PPP were in alliance. Looking at the election results, it can be seen that the PPP and the PTI did observe an alliance on some seats, but ticket-holders of both parties competed strongly against one another. The results are thus predictably those that have been declared: the PML-N winning. There were a number of seats where even combined PPP-PTI votes would not have stopped the PML-N winning.

It seems that AJK yielded results similar to those of the Punjab, where the PTI has cut mainly into the PPP support base, with the result that PML-N candidates have found it easier to win. In the AJK, as in the Punjab, it seems that the appeal of the PTIs issues, corruption and electoral reform, has not reached levels at which it would garner electoral support.

Mian Nawaz may find that the AJK win may not yield him as much political benefit as he has indicated. After all, the Muzaffarabad government being of the same colour as the Islamabad government is merely one of the perks of office. The issues affecting the wider Pakistani scene, such as the Panama Leaks and the consequent opposition movement, do not seem to have much of an effect on its elections. However, at this particular juncture, he will find it an advantage to have the party in office the same, because the movement in Held Kashmir is awakening international attention. The world over, people and governments are realizing that their expedient acceptance of the Indian line has led to intolerable results: the slaughter of unarmed people.

Pakistani diplomacy has not achieved this. Kashmiri lives have. Pakistani withdrawal of support for militant activities has led to Kashmiris taking over the movement in the Held Valley, a movement which owes much to the burning desire of the Kashmiri people for self-determination, but also much to the Indian centres ham-handedness. The use by the anti-Muslim anti-Pakistan BJP of slash-and-burn methods, its attempt at strong-arm tactics, has proved the last straw for Kashmiris. In a way, they are no longer struggling for self-determination, but for survival.

Kashmir provides an example where Indias cozying up to the USA is rubbing Pakistan the wrong way. Because Indian repression of Kashmiris is the present reality, the USA is working not just against Kashmiri aspirations, but Pakistani too. The USA would like the issue resolved, on terms which its new friend would like. Pakistanis and Kashmiris alike want the killing to stop. India seems to have over-reached itself, and to rely too greatly on its new friend. At this point, the base camp must be secure. The recent elections in AJK should be aimed at helping bring about a time when AJK is not a base camp, just a part of Kashmir, just as the death of Burhan Wani must act as a harbinger of a time when the killing stops.