The introduction of mandatory hijab in educational institutions across Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) is move towards Talibanisation of the region.

Last year PoK prime minister announced that Rehmat Ullil Alameen Authority will be established in PoK. Millions of rupees have been allocated for this purpose.

Consequently, the fascist Islamic political party called Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) PoK chapter has been given free hand to operate, recruit and participate in election in PoK.

Jamat e Islami has been active in PoK for decades. Both parties are founded on the slogan ‘Kashmir Banay Ga Pakistan’ (Kashmir with become Pakistan).

There are other political parties of the centre right and extreme right that also propagates the accession of Kashmir to Pakistan. These include the JK People’s Party which is the PoK chapter of Pakistan Peoples Party, the JK Muslim League (Nawaz), JK Tehreek e Insaf and others.

Due to lack of a free and fair election process the PoK electorate votes on the basis of caste, baradris and tribe affiliation. Therefore, whichever political party forms a government in Pakistan their sister party in PoK is brought into power.

When the current PoK government of PTI led by prime minister Tanveer Ilyas came to power in PoK, Pakistan had a government led by Imran Khan who also is the leader of his party the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf.

On the night of April 9 and 10, 2022 the government of Imran Khan was ousted by a vote of no confidence that was allegedly engineered by the then Pakistan army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

A coalition government was then sworn in led by Pakistan Muslim League’s Shehbaz Sharif. In both occupied territories of PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan the governments are led by PTI of Imran Khan.

Since Pakistan is facing economic bankruptcy it has cancelled most of the subsidies and development funds for both PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Therefore, both heads of government in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan are facing the wrath of their indigenous people who consider them as stooges of Pakistan military establishment.

For almost three years now, protests against load shedding, shortages of wheat and water, increased progressive taxation and land grab by Pakistan military has been a daily occurrence.

Under the current politically charged climate Pakistan is now trying to arm twist the people of PoK into total submission. It is in this light that three of the recent steps taken by the PoK government must be seen.

First was the step taken by the PoK in the direction of imposing the dictatorship of Islam by establishing the aforementioned Rehmat Ullil Alameen Authority.

Under the Authority any person can be accused of committing blasphemy and lynched by a fanatic mob or arrested and put in prison and tried.

The second step was to erase the ethnic identity of the people of PoK by forcing them to comply with the census 2023 team and get registered as Pakistan citizens.

There is no column to identify our people as Kashmiri, Pahari, Jamwals or other ethnic group. This has led to massive unrest in PoK. People are refusing to give their data as Pakistanis.

Third step taken by the government of PoK is the decree regarding the wearing of Hijab as mandatory by female students, female teachers and female administration staff in all educational institutions of PoK.

The sole purpose of the above mentioned steps taken by the PoK government is to instil fear among the population. It is also a method of exercising omnipresent control over society and in particular over women.

The question is whether these steps were taken towards the Talibanisation of PoK work? I don’t think so.

The anger over 75 years of atrocities and plunder that my people have suffered at the hands of Pakistan are too gross to be forgotten or ignored.

On March 8, All Parties Peoples Rights Forum has begun a protest long-march from Rawalakot towards Islamabad.

Their demands include reduction in the prices of daily essential food items, reinstatement of subsidies on 48 items that the United Nations has approved, cancellation of 20 canals of government land that the PoK prime minister has donated for the construction of Sindh House in Muzaffarabad, end of taxation of electricity, stop the census and conduct it under the watchful eye of PoK government and confiscation of perks and privileges of the officials in PoK.

There is no mention of Islamic sharia or that Hijab should be made mandatory in educational institutions in the demand charter of the All Parties People’s Rights Forum.

In fact, the religious decrees issued by the PoK government are a reflection of the fear that the people of PoK have instilled in the corridors of power in Muzaffarabad.

Protests against census 2023 and abysmal living conditions is on the rise in both PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan. Will the PoK government’s attempt to Talibanise PoK work? I hope not.

Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoK. He currently lives in the UK in exile.

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