Locals demand freedom as violent protests break in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir

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Muzaffarabad, May 11 (IANS) A two-day holiday has been declared in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) after a violent confrontation between the local police authorities and the protesters, who took to the streets against what they termed unjust taxes levied on electricity bills and towering inflation.

The protest, called in by Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee aka People’s Action Committee, announced for Friday and Saturday has been met with an aggressive response from the police, which resorted to a crackdown and arrests of protesters and their leaders, further inflaming the already angry protestors.

On Friday, violent scenes of angry protests were witnessed involving stone pelting and fierce tear gas shelling.

On Saturday, a complete wheel-jam shutter-down strike was observed across PoK with a call for a rally towards Muzaffarbaad, where the legislative government and its assembly are based.

“There is going to be a complete shutter-down and wheel-jam strike observed across PoK and specifically in Muzaffarabad against the police brutality against our peaceful protestors in Dadyal on Friday,” said Saukat Nawaz Mir, Chairman Traders Association Muzaffarabad and member of the Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee.

“I call on everyone to come out today and raise your voice for your rights,” he added as videos of locals demanding freedom from the Pakistani establishment went viral on social media.

It is pertinent to mention here that the People’s Action Committee of Kashmir has been staging protests against the government’s policies of imposing taxes, rising inflation and electricity outages through shutter-down protests and rallies. The committee staged a similar protest last August as well.

“We reject imposition of taxes on electricity bills. Instead, we demand that electricity should be provided to consumers in accordance with the production cost of hydel power in the region,” said Shaukat Nawaz Mir.

An agreement was reached and a notification on the same was also issued in February by the government but the committee again announced its protest this month against non-fulfillment of the written commitments given by the government.

“Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee’s call for protest and a long march towards Muzaffarabad has been responded to actively and positively by the people. All businesses including banks and markets are closed. Traffic and vendors are also off the roads in at least three districts of Muzaffarabad,” said a local resident.

Shaukat Nawaz Mir said that police resorting to tear gas shelling has badly affected people and the move will not stop the people from demanding their rights.

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