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SRINAGAR: The killing of Panch woman candidate Hasina Akhtar at Karpora in Pakherpora of Budgam district in central Kashmir has sent shock waves diagonally the Valley. Several candidates for the second phase of elections have announced the withdrawal of their nominations via local mosques, particularly in the central Kashmir area, fearing militant attacks.

Hasina Akhtar (40) was a candidate in the second phase of panchayat elections listed for April 21. This is the first political killing in Kashmir since the 16-phase polls began on April 13. Reports on her murder are contradictory. While locals say that the woman was involved in a matrimonial dispute with her husband which may have been the reason behind the attack, police and security forces, however, maintain that Lashkar-e-Taiba militants were likely behind the killing.

The assailants barged into her house and resorted to indiscriminate firing, killing Hasina on the spot. According to the police, they also try to attack another woman candidate Sajja Begum who belongs to the same area. Though these elections are being fought on non-party basis, Hasina was affiliated with the People’s Democratic Party of Mehbooba Mufti.

Despite a boycott call by separatists and militant groups, more than 87% polling was reported in the first phase of panchayat elections on April 13. After the first phase, J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah had said these elections for local bodies were the ‘cleanest ever’. He, however, made it clear that pannchyat elections in the state should not be construed as a referendum for resolution of Kashmir issue.

The fresh spate of attack in the Valley after the murder of chief of Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadees (JAH), Maulana Showkat Shah, has improved the threat insight to politicians and citizens. The militant killed class 12 student Sajjad Ahmad Dar in Sopore last Monday. Another citizen, Suresh Kumar, went missing in Anantnag few days ago.

DG of police Kuldeep Khoda has asserted, “Nobody will be allowed to vitiate the environment and create obstacles in smooth conduct of polls.”

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