In a serious electoral lapse on part of the Jammu and Kashmir government authorities, a woman from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) was declared elected unopposed as sarpanch of Khumriyal area in the terror-infested Kupwara district in North Kashmir.
The authorities declaring Arifa Begum elected unopposed for both slots of sarpanch and panch is being considered a serious issue as the area is just near the Line of Control (LoC) from where terrorists have been making attempts to infiltrate into India.
Repeated efforts to reach Kupwara Deputy Commissioner Khalid Jehangir for his comments did not materialise as he neither responded to mobile phone calls and nor replied to WhatsApp messages.
I may be recalled that Poonch Deputy Commissioner Rahul Yadav had last week debarred a POK woman, Nausheen, from contesting the panchayat election in Sawjian village. She had illegally come to Poonch via Nepal with her husband Rafiq Bhat and four children.
According to reports, 35-year-old Arifa Begum, who is originally a resident of Palandari village in the POK capital Muzaffarabad, had filed her nominations for the slots of panch and sarpanch in Khumriyal-B area of Kupwara district. No other nomination was filed against her in the wake of the election boycott call by separatists and Pakistan-backed terror outfits.
The authorities had declared her elected unopposed and she was provided with an elaborate security cover like other candidates who were contesting the elections.
Panchayat elections in the state are currently being held in nine phases.
Arifa Begum had reportedly entered India via Nepal in 2010 with her husband Ghulam Mohammad Mir, who under the influence of terrorists had crossed over to POK in 2001 to receive arms training. He married Arifa in the POK and brought her along with him to Kashmir in 2010 when he surrendered before the authorities.
People from POK trying to contest elections in Jammu and Kashmir is not a new trend. Nomination papers of a POK resident for contesting an election were rejected by the district administration of Poonch few years ago too.