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Tuesday, 20 August, 2002, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
Shake-up urged for Kashmir vote
Election Commission head JM Lyngdoh
Election chief says voting will go ahead on time
Electoral officials have asked for a shake-up of personnel in Indian-administered Kashmir ahead of elections due by September.

They want all civil servants and police officers who have spent four years posted in one place to be moved - in order to ensure the poll is free and fair, the state's deputy chief electoral officer said.


The commission is all set to hold elections in four phases as per the already announced schedule

JM Lyngdoh, Election Commission head
India's independent Election Commission has already announced that half of the polling staff will be brought in from other states.

On Monday, it said there were no plans to delay the polls because of security fears.

Commission head JM Lyngdoh said he had received assurances all necessary security arrangements would be made on time.

"As far as we know, we are all set to hold elections as per schedule."

Mr Lyngdoh was speaking after three days in Jammu and Kashmir spent gauging the divided region's readiness to hold the election.

Pakistan, meanwhile, says the vote will be a sham.

Foreign Minister Nisar Memon said on Tuesday a referendum should first be held allowing Kashmiris to choose between India, Pakistan or independence.

Bloodshed

Voting for a new state legislative assembly is due to begin by mid-September.

Indian soldier frisks civilians
Many feel the vote will not be fair
It is taking place against a backdrop of continuing tension - nine suspected militants were killed on Tuesday, and another seven on Sunday, the authorities say.

Delhi already has hundreds of thousands of troops along the Line of Control dividing Kashmir with Pakistan, and has commissioned additional paramilitary troops for the elections.

Some say the extreme security in place makes a fair election impossible.

Separatist leaders are calling for a boycott of the poll and militant groups fighting against Indian rule have warned people not to take part.

Electoral officers say they want at least half the staff at every polling station to be from outside Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim majority state.

Some 5,000 polling staff from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab are being brought in to supplement those already present in the state.

The commission has so far issued voter identity cards to 10% of the six million voters on the state's electoral roll.

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