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Explained: What Has Triggered Violent Clashes in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir?

A policeman has been killed and 100 people have sustained injuries amid protests that have gripped PoK.

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Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) has been in the grip of violent clashes over the last four days – leading to the death of at least one police official and injuries sustained by over 100 people.

The clashes began on Friday, 10 May, when scores of people took to the streets in response to a clarion call issued by the Jammu Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC) – demanding relaxations in the price of wheat flour and subsidised electricity rates.

Several prominent traders across PoK are members of the JAAC, which claims to be the first socio-political and religious organisation in J&K, according to their X (formerly Twitter) page.

What led the protests to spiral into a full-fledged rights movement? Have clashes on such a scale occurred before in the region? The Quint explains.

Explained: What Has Triggered Violent Clashes in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir?

  1. 1. What's Behind the Protests in PoK? 

    Two major factors are said to be behind the clashes.

    The JAAC had previously announced the commencement of a 'Long March' on Saturday, 11 May, during which its members would converge upon Pok's capital Muzaffarabad to press the government into providing economic relaxations in the region.

    However, security forces raided the residences of several JAAC members and arrested around 70 of them between 8 and 9 May to prevent their participation in the march, according to the Dawn newspaper. The arrests had led to widespread clashes in Mirpur's Dadyal village on 9 May during which several people sustained injuries.

    In response to the arrests and the Dadyal violence, the JAAC announced a shutter-down and wheel-jam strike on Friday, 10 May.

    "There is going to be a complete strike observed across PoK and specifically in Muzaffarabad against the police brutality against our peaceful protesters in Dadyal," Saukat Nawaz Mir, member of the JAAC, was quoted as saying by news agency IANS.

    The second factor, which is more deep-rooted, has to do with the rising anger of the general public owing to high inflation rates, imposition of heavy taxes, frequent power cuts, and lack of other basic amenities.

    Mir said that the people of PoK reject the imposition of taxes on electricity bills – and demanded that electricity "should be provided to consumers in accordance with the production cost of hydel power in the region".

    In several videos people were heard raising the slogan of 'Aazadi' (Freedom) and clashing with security personnel n PoK's Muzzafarabad, Mirpur, Rawalkot, Tattapani, Hattian Bala, Khuiratta, and Sehansa districts – demanding financial relaxations and the release of arrested JAAC activists.

    Videos also showed security personnel purportedly firing bullets in the air as warning shots and using tear gas and batons to dispel the protesters.

    Meanwhile, markets and educational institutions have been shut across Pok and mobile internet suspended in various parts of the region, including in Bhimber, Bagh, and Mirpur. Additionally, public gatherings and rallies have been banned under Section 144, Dawn reported.

    Amid the tensions, photos of a few posters have been doing the rounds on social media purportedly calling for PoK's "merger" with India. The Quint has not independently verified the veracity of the posters. 

    A policeman has been killed and 100 people have sustained injuries amid protests that have gripped PoK.

    A poster purportedly demanding the merger of PoK with India. The Quint has not independently verified the veracity of the poster. 

    (Photo Courtesy: X)

    PoK activist Amjad Ayub Mirza on Saturday, 11 May, called on the Indian government to help people in the region win "independence" from Pakistan. He also claimed that two unarmed civilians had been shot dead by Pakistani security forces amid the clashes.

    "India cannot remain aloof from the current situation in Pakistan-occupied Jammu Kashmir. At the moment, our people are fighting. The whole of Pakistan-occupied Jammu Kashmir has been shut down by peaceful protesters who are being beaten up and shot at by the Pakistan police, Punjab police, the so-called Azad Kashmir Police and the FC [Frontier Constabulary]," he said, according to news agency ANI.

    Expand
  2. 2. How Has the Pakistan Government Reacted? 

    Taking to X on Sunday, 12 May, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed concern over the ongoing protests and urged all parties to resort to a peaceful course of action for the resolution of the crisis.

    "Deeply concerned about the situation in AJK. Unfortunately, in situations of chaos and dissent there are always some who rush in to score political points. While debate, discussion and peaceful protests are the beauties of democracy, there should be absolutely no tolerance for taking the law in one's own hands and damaging government properties," he said.

    Sharif further stated that he had tasked leaders of his party Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) to speak to representatives of the JAAC to find a way forward.

    Meanwhile, PoK's so-called prime minister Chaudhry Anwarul Haq said that his government was willing to provide relief pertaining to electricity supply and wheat flour prices.

    "The government held negotiations with the Awami Action Committee (AAC) and we reached an agreement which we are determined to implement," he was quoted as saying by Geo News.

    As a remedial measure, Sharif on Monday, 13 May, sanctioned Rs 23 billion to PoK to tide over the economic difficulties being faced by the public. The decision was taken following a special meeting chaired by the prime minister and attended by Chaudhry Anwarul Haq and other senior officials, the Pakistan PMO said in a statement.
    Expand
  3. 3. How Has the Indian Government Reacted? 

    While India has not officially reacted to the ongoing tensions, Home Minister Amit Shah said while addressing an election rally in Uttar Pradesh's Rae Bareli on Sunday, 12 May, that India will take back PoK if the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) retains power following the ongoing elections.

    "Our leader is Narendra Modi, and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) was ours, is ours, and will remain ours! No one can shake our claim on this," he said, adding, "We will act decisively and take back PoK."

    Shah made these comments when the demonstrations in the region were ongoing.

    Similarly, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had on 5 May reiterated the government's official position on PoK while speaking to the press in Odisha's Cuttack, and also pinned blame on previous Congress governments for the "sorry state of affairs" in the region.

    "There is a resolution of the Indian parliament that PoK is very much a part of India. Now, how did other people get control? It happens when you have someone who is not a responsible custodian of a house, an outsider will come and steal something," he said.

    Jaishankar further added that while it is difficult to say what will happen in the future (regarding PoK), he added that the region had regained consciousness in the minds of the Indian public.

    "We had forgotten about it, we were made to forget about it, but it is back now, definitely," the minister stated.

    Expand
  4. 4. Is This the First Time PoK is Witnessing a Rights Movement?

    The ongoing clashes bear resemblance to similar protests that took place in August last year in PoK's Rawalakot over rising prices of electricity and wheat flour.

    Just a month later, the arrest of a Shia cleric on charges of blasphemy had led to widespread demonstrations in Gilgit Baltistan – which is the western portion of PoK.

    Raising slogans of “Chalo, chalo Kargil chalo” (Let us go to Kargil), several protesters also demanded the region's merger with India.

    At the time, Kashmiri-British activist Shabir Choudhry had released a video saying that the people of PoK were appealing to the Indian government to free them from Pakistan's "illegal occupation".

    "Pakistan is perturbed over this but the most astonishing thing I got to hear was that people residing near the Line of Control in PoK raised slogans, such as 'Ask [Indian PM Narendra] Modi to get us freedom from Pakistan's illegal occupation!' and save our souls, we are dying of hunger, please come here and help us out',” he was purportedly heard saying in the video.

    (With inputs from IANS, Dawn, and Geo News.)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What's Behind the Protests in PoK? 

Two major factors are said to be behind the clashes.

The JAAC had previously announced the commencement of a 'Long March' on Saturday, 11 May, during which its members would converge upon Pok's capital Muzaffarabad to press the government into providing economic relaxations in the region.

However, security forces raided the residences of several JAAC members and arrested around 70 of them between 8 and 9 May to prevent their participation in the march, according to the Dawn newspaper. The arrests had led to widespread clashes in Mirpur's Dadyal village on 9 May during which several people sustained injuries.

In response to the arrests and the Dadyal violence, the JAAC announced a shutter-down and wheel-jam strike on Friday, 10 May.

"There is going to be a complete strike observed across PoK and specifically in Muzaffarabad against the police brutality against our peaceful protesters in Dadyal," Saukat Nawaz Mir, member of the JAAC, was quoted as saying by news agency IANS.

The second factor, which is more deep-rooted, has to do with the rising anger of the general public owing to high inflation rates, imposition of heavy taxes, frequent power cuts, and lack of other basic amenities.

Mir said that the people of PoK reject the imposition of taxes on electricity bills – and demanded that electricity "should be provided to consumers in accordance with the production cost of hydel power in the region".

In several videos people were heard raising the slogan of 'Aazadi' (Freedom) and clashing with security personnel n PoK's Muzzafarabad, Mirpur, Rawalkot, Tattapani, Hattian Bala, Khuiratta, and Sehansa districts – demanding financial relaxations and the release of arrested JAAC activists.

Videos also showed security personnel purportedly firing bullets in the air as warning shots and using tear gas and batons to dispel the protesters.

Meanwhile, markets and educational institutions have been shut across Pok and mobile internet suspended in various parts of the region, including in Bhimber, Bagh, and Mirpur. Additionally, public gatherings and rallies have been banned under Section 144, Dawn reported.

Amid the tensions, photos of a few posters have been doing the rounds on social media purportedly calling for PoK's "merger" with India. The Quint has not independently verified the veracity of the posters. 

A policeman has been killed and 100 people have sustained injuries amid protests that have gripped PoK.

A poster purportedly demanding the merger of PoK with India. The Quint has not independently verified the veracity of the poster. 

(Photo Courtesy: X)

PoK activist Amjad Ayub Mirza on Saturday, 11 May, called on the Indian government to help people in the region win "independence" from Pakistan. He also claimed that two unarmed civilians had been shot dead by Pakistani security forces amid the clashes.

"India cannot remain aloof from the current situation in Pakistan-occupied Jammu Kashmir. At the moment, our people are fighting. The whole of Pakistan-occupied Jammu Kashmir has been shut down by peaceful protesters who are being beaten up and shot at by the Pakistan police, Punjab police, the so-called Azad Kashmir Police and the FC [Frontier Constabulary]," he said, according to news agency ANI.

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How Has the Pakistan Government Reacted? 

Taking to X on Sunday, 12 May, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed concern over the ongoing protests and urged all parties to resort to a peaceful course of action for the resolution of the crisis.

"Deeply concerned about the situation in AJK. Unfortunately, in situations of chaos and dissent there are always some who rush in to score political points. While debate, discussion and peaceful protests are the beauties of democracy, there should be absolutely no tolerance for taking the law in one's own hands and damaging government properties," he said.

Sharif further stated that he had tasked leaders of his party Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) to speak to representatives of the JAAC to find a way forward.

Meanwhile, PoK's so-called prime minister Chaudhry Anwarul Haq said that his government was willing to provide relief pertaining to electricity supply and wheat flour prices.

"The government held negotiations with the Awami Action Committee (AAC) and we reached an agreement which we are determined to implement," he was quoted as saying by Geo News.

As a remedial measure, Sharif on Monday, 13 May, sanctioned Rs 23 billion to PoK to tide over the economic difficulties being faced by the public. The decision was taken following a special meeting chaired by the prime minister and attended by Chaudhry Anwarul Haq and other senior officials, the Pakistan PMO said in a statement.
0

How Has the Indian Government Reacted? 

While India has not officially reacted to the ongoing tensions, Home Minister Amit Shah said while addressing an election rally in Uttar Pradesh's Rae Bareli on Sunday, 12 May, that India will take back PoK if the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) retains power following the ongoing elections.

"Our leader is Narendra Modi, and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) was ours, is ours, and will remain ours! No one can shake our claim on this," he said, adding, "We will act decisively and take back PoK."

Shah made these comments when the demonstrations in the region were ongoing.

Similarly, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had on 5 May reiterated the government's official position on PoK while speaking to the press in Odisha's Cuttack, and also pinned blame on previous Congress governments for the "sorry state of affairs" in the region.

"There is a resolution of the Indian parliament that PoK is very much a part of India. Now, how did other people get control? It happens when you have someone who is not a responsible custodian of a house, an outsider will come and steal something," he said.

Jaishankar further added that while it is difficult to say what will happen in the future (regarding PoK), he added that the region had regained consciousness in the minds of the Indian public.

"We had forgotten about it, we were made to forget about it, but it is back now, definitely," the minister stated.

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Is This the First Time PoK is Witnessing a Rights Movement?

The ongoing clashes bear resemblance to similar protests that took place in August last year in PoK's Rawalakot over rising prices of electricity and wheat flour.

Just a month later, the arrest of a Shia cleric on charges of blasphemy had led to widespread demonstrations in Gilgit Baltistan – which is the western portion of PoK.

Raising slogans of “Chalo, chalo Kargil chalo” (Let us go to Kargil), several protesters also demanded the region's merger with India.

At the time, Kashmiri-British activist Shabir Choudhry had released a video saying that the people of PoK were appealing to the Indian government to free them from Pakistan's "illegal occupation".

"Pakistan is perturbed over this but the most astonishing thing I got to hear was that people residing near the Line of Control in PoK raised slogans, such as 'Ask [Indian PM Narendra] Modi to get us freedom from Pakistan's illegal occupation!' and save our souls, we are dying of hunger, please come here and help us out',” he was purportedly heard saying in the video.

(With inputs from IANS, Dawn, and Geo News.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Protests   PoK   Violence 

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