In the just concluded elections for the ninth legislative Assembly of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has achieved a simple majority by winning 21 seats out of 41 directly electable slots. It might add to its tally of seats when elections are held in the three constituencies where they have been proposed due to security reasons as well as for five special seats reserved for women and one each for ulemas, technocrats and overseas Pakistanis. Ostensibly, the party is in a commanding position to form the next government on its own, but there are indications that it might prefer to opt for a coalition government with the Muslim Conference that has won four seats in conformity with its policy of reconciliation. However, the losing political parties have kept up the tradition of not accepting the elections results openheartedly and have accused the winning party of rigging the polls. Unfortunately, violence and rigging have invariably remained the hallmark of elections in Pakistan. Thus, we saw the same happen during the AJK elections. But to generalise the phenomenon on the basis of individual and sporadic incidents is certainly not fair. The June 26 elections are significant because for the first time the PML-N, which has usually supported the Muslim Conference fell out with it because of its alliance with Musharraf, directly participated in the elections and won eight seats. The presence of PPP and PML-N - the two main political parties of Pakistan - in AJK, indeed, is a healthy development; it will definitely help strengthen democracy in the territory. Also, the AJK elections were a litmus test for the popularity of the two major political parties and meant a lot to them. Several analysts believe that these elections will determine the pattern of general elections in Pakistan, which are due within two years. Anyway, the PPPs victory is viewed as an endorsement of the strong bond that exists between the party and the people of Kashmir, especially AJK. Although the democratic set-up in AJK was established in 1970 through the presidential system, yet the real architect of parliamentary democracy was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who introduced it through an Act of Parliament in 1974. Moreover, the history of elections in AJK reveals that the Muslim Conference, who was considered to be the flag bearer of the cause of Kashmiris, has ruled the territory six times from August 1977 to September 1985 when the region was ruled by the Chief Executives appointed by the martial law regime. Other than the Muslim Conference, the Peoples Party is the only party from Pakistan, which has had a power stint in AJK. Another noteworthy phenomenon is that even when the Muslim Conference was in power, Bhutto was the most popular political leader among the people, who looked upon him as their hero. His famous words in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), we will fight for a thousand years, raised his popularity to dizzying heights. In fact, he was the one who choreographed Pakistans foreign policy that laid stress on friendship with China, took a hard line stance towards India on the issue of Kashmir as well as building bonhomie among the Muslim countries. The tidal wave that he created in Pakistan with his social philosophy also swept across the whole of Kashmir. The people of AJK have paid the debt by reposing confidence in Bhuttos PPP. n The writer is a political analyst.