Protests turn deadly in PoK; Amit Shah responds

Violent protests have erupted in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) due to soaring costs of food, fuel, and utilities. Since May 10, the demonstrations have resulted in the death of a police officer and over 90 injuries. The unrest began when around 70 members of the Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC) were arrested during a strike against high living costs, leading to further clashes.

| Updated: 15 May, 2024 5:07 pm IST

NEW DELHI: Violent protests have erupted in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) due to soaring costs of food, fuel, and utilities. Since May 10, the demonstrations have resulted in the death of a police officer and over 90 injuries. The unrest began when around 70 members of the Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC) were arrested during a strike against high living costs, leading to further clashes.

Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK, came to a standstill as public transport, shops, and businesses shut down. Protesters clashed with police, especially in the Mirpur and Muzaffarabad divisions, breaking barricades. On May 12, paramilitary Rangers were called in to protect key government buildings.

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Pakistan has been facing severe economic challenges, including high inflation and stagnant growth. Consumer inflation has remained above 20% since May 2022 and hit 38% in May 2023. The economic crisis, worsened by halted trade with India, has significantly impacted PoK. Complaints of discriminatory power distribution from Islamabad have fueled further discontent.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced a special package worth 23 billion Pakistani Rupees to address these issues, focusing on reducing wheat and electricity costs. However, residents remain skeptical about the implementation of these promises.

The protests, initially sparked by economic hardships, reflect deeper issues. The region has been heavily affected by strained India-Pakistan relations, especially following the 2019 Constitutional changes in Jammu and Kashmir. Trade between the two countries has significantly decreased, further hurting PoK’s economy.

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Additionally Union Home Minister Amit Shah, addressing a rally in Serampore, commented on these protests, asserting that “POK is part of India and we will take it.” Shah emphasized that peace has returned to Indian-administered Kashmir post the abrogation of Article 370, contrasting it with the unrest in PoK. He criticized Congress leaders for not supporting the reclaiming of PoK, asserting that Pakistan’s nuclear capability should not deter India.

As tensions remain high, the regional government seeks resolution through talks with JAAC leaders, while maintaining a strong security presence to manage the unrest.

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