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The Growing Turmoil in Pakistan Administered Kashmir sees Violence and Resilience

12:52 AM May 14, 2024 IST | SHABIR IBN YUSUF
the growing turmoil in pakistan administered kashmir sees violence and resilience
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In the rugged and restive terrain of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a series of escalating protests led by the Awami Action Committee (AAC) and the Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC) have taken a violent turn, casting a shadow over the region's quest for justice and equitable governance. What began months ago as demonstrations against high electricity bills, lack of subsidies, and demands for greater local control over natural resources has spiraled into intense confrontations with law enforcement agencies, highlighting systemic issues and alleged human rights violations.

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The protests intensified significantly this February when the JAAC declared a complete shutter-down and wheel-jam strike, marking the government's "Kashmir Solidarity Day" as "Peoples Rights Day." This day of action was meant to underscore the hypocrisy of a government that claims solidarity with Kashmiris while allegedly neglecting its own people in the administered territories. As tensions mounted, the government's response to the protests grew increasingly severe, with multiple reports of heavy-handed tactics that have led to widespread criticism and concern.

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One of the most distressing episodes occurred recently in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, where police reportedly used tear gas and shelling against residential areas. The use of such measures in densely populated zones resulted in injuries to innocent bystanders, including women and children, who were forced to don masks simply to clean their homes from the residue of the conflict.

In another grave incident, police in the Belah Noor Shah area of Muzaffarabad targeted a transformer with gunfire, causing it to explode and leaving the area without power. This act of shooting at critical infrastructure underlines the dangerous escalation of force, adding to the chaos and disruption faced by the local populace.

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The confrontation reached a new peak at Neelum Bridge, where police fired guns directly at protesters. This severe use of force against unarmed civilians marks a troubling development in the police's engagement strategies. Similarly, in the area of Bela Nur Shah, what began as a peaceful protest turned violent when a police van was smashed by demonstrators, signaling a boiling over of pent-up frustrations and anger.

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One of the most harrowing reports involved over fifty policemen allegedly involved in the torture of a child in Muzaffarabad, an accusation that, if true, points to profound violations of human rights and decency. Such actions, widely condemned, have only served to deepen the mistrust between the community and law enforcement.

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Violence also erupted at Shah Sultan Bridge, where police reportedly resorted to throwing large stones at protesters, seriously injuring at least one individual. This method of crowd control is not only unconventional but dangerously irresponsible, highlighting a breakdown in standard operational protocols for handling protests.

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In a shocking twist of public action, the Assistant Commissioner of Sehnsa, Kotli, was captured by protesters in a village named Baroiana. This incident underscores the extent of public grievance and the lengths to which people will go to express their dissent against perceived injustices by government officials.

Further complicating the already tense atmosphere, a provocative poster in Rawalakot declared that Kashmir had been merged with India, a claim that inflamed sentiments and added to the regional instability. Meanwhile, in a show of solidarity, the Canada-based Jammu and Kashmir community gathered outside the Genesis Centre to support the protesters, indicating the diaspora's engagement and concern over the unfolding events.

The crisis took a lethal turn in District Mirpur, at Akalgarh, where police began firing directly at protesters, wounding dozens and fatally injuring one individual with a bullet to the chest. Additionally, a policeman named Adnan Qureshi was killed in Islam Garh, Mirpur, during an exchange of fire, adding to the growing list of casualties in these protests.

Amid these severe confrontations, there have been moments of public intervention where police officers accused of violence against protesters in Sahansa were detained by the public and handed over to authorities, showing a rare instance of civilian arrest of law enforcement officers.

The ongoing unrest in Pakistan-administered Kashmir is more than a local disturbance; it is a significant crisis that questions the efficacy of the Pakistani government's ability to manage dissent and address the grievances of its citizens. The international community, human rights organizations, and local stakeholders continue to watch the situation closely, calling for restraint, adherence to human rights norms, and a constructive dialogue to resolve the deep-seated issues that have led to such unrest. The path forward must ensure that the voices of Kashmir's residents are heard and that their rights are respected, paving the way for lasting peace and stability in this fraught region.

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