Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) has been grappling with a flurry of protests over the last several days disrupting day-to-day life and bringing the administration to a standstill. The local Kashmiris are furious over rising price of food, fuel and unemployment. The absence of rule of law coupled with high-handed behaviour of Pakistan Army and blatant corruption within the puppet Muzaffarabad government has added fuel to fire.
“Demonstrations of some sort are taking place in all 10 districts of AJK (POK) and roads leading to Pakistan are also being blocked almost on a daily basis. The people’s frustration is amplified by the absence of executive power among local politicians and a lame administration/judiciary. They have finally understood that Pakistan is a sinking ship and they don’t want to be on board,” observed Tanveer Ahmed, researcher and senior journalist based in the region. Tanveer Ahmed was arrested by the Pakistani establishment in August 2020 when he pulled down Pakistani flag at the Maqbool Bhat Square at Dadyal.
That the Muzaffarabad government has always taken diktats from Rawalpindi is an open secret. So when the Tanveer Ilyas-led Muzaffarabad administration imposed higher taxes on electricity ‘supplied’ in the region it infuriated local Kashmiris and they could figure out that it was Islamabad-Rawalpindi nexus that is behind the higher taxes. Local Kashmiris understand that the hydroelectricity is generated in POK and then transmitted to Pakistan from where this electricity is re-transmitted to the ten districts after levying heavy taxes and surcharge. Islamabad’s economic chaos has had an effect on Kashmiris as well. Price of food grain and fuel has been rising steadily, eating up the monthly expense of a household and adding up to collective anger.
Further, tourism is the major source of bread and butter for Kashmiris. However, the Pakistani military’s taking over of tourist hotspots and making a tourism development authority has incensed the local Kashmiris. These local Kashmiris are also jittery about Pakistan’s efforts to gobble POK into its federation. Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif has formed a high-level committee to prepare a draft for 15th amendment to the AJ&K Interim Constitution Act 1974 by July 31. “Pakistan is making serious attempts to integrate AJK (POK) into its federation,” explained Tanveer Ahmed.
The result has been massive widespread protests and demonstrations at Rawalakot, Bagh, Poonch, Muzaffarabad and Neelam Valley among other districts in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.