A woman from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), who married a Kashmir resident, has been elected Sarpanch and Panch in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara district in the state panchayat polls. Arifa Begum, 35, who has been living in the Valley for nearly eight years now, contested the elections from Khumriyal area. She is married to Ghulam Mohammed Mir, a resident of Khumriyal in Kupwara. The two returned to the Valley in 2010 under the government’s rehabilitation policy for militants, with J&K Police officials confirming the same.
Election officials in Kupwara told The Indian Express on Tuesday that Arifa submitted her nomination papers for Sarpanch and Panch for the Khumriyal-B seat. Ghulam Mohidin, Assistant Returning Officer (ARO) of the area, said Arifa submitted her nomination papers before November 5, the last date for filing the documents.
The area will go to polls on November 20, but as no other candidate submitted their papers in time, Arifa has been elected unopposed.
Shakeel Ahmad, the Returning Officer (RO) for Khumriyal area, told The Indian Express that Arifa had submitted all required documents to contest the elections. “We don’t know about her background. She has submitted all the documents like Aadhaar at the time of filing the nomination papers. Her name is also in the electorate list,” Ahmad said.
Police sources said Mir had initially crossed the Line of Control (LoC) for arms training. They said he and Arifa returned to Kashmir via Nepal in 2010 after staying on the other side of the border for several years.
When The Indian Express contacted Mir on Tuesday evening, he refused to talk. “I don’t want to talk about it, please ask SP Sahib for the details,” he said. Asked if a resident from PoK who is married to Kashmir resident can contest the elections, Khalid Jahangir, the Kupwara District Election Officer, said that he has asked the returning officer to submit the details of the case.
“I have so far no information about the case. I can only comment once I get the complete details from the concerned RO,” he said.