PoK activist sounds alarm as 3 more people die in protests: 'Broad daylight murder'

Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is on the boil as clashes erupt over inflation

PAKISTAN-KASHMIR/PROTESTS People hold a banner as they chant slogans in support of an alliance of civil rights groups protesting in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir | Reuters

The protest that erupted in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) continued on Monday too, despite the Pakistan government attempting to placate the agitators with subsidies on flour prices and electricity tariffs. Over three people were killed in police firing on Monday, taking the total toll to four. 

On Monday, the fourth day of the protest launched by the Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC), over 10,000 people took to the streets to protest against the government. "Three protesters have been killed, all of whom were shot, and currently there are eight reported injuries," Muzaffarabad Deputy Commissioner Nadeem Janjua told AFP. One policeman was killed during violence on Saturday.

As the protests gained media attention, the Pakistan government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tried to placate the protestors by doling out Rs 23 billion on power and wheat subsidies. After the announcement, Pakistan Rangers, who were called in to quell the protest, were supposed to leave the territory. However, the convoy of Pakistan Rangers was intercepted by angry villagers who pelted stones at them. They responded with tear gas and firing. According to Karachi-based Dawn, three Rangers vehicles were set ablaze on the Muzaffarabad-Brarkot road.

The Rangers responded with the use of teargas and bullets. The shelling was so intense that the entire neighbourhood reeled from it, reported Dawn. 

However, Amjad Ayub Mirza, a prominent PoK activist based in Scotland, termed the situation in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-occupied Kashmir (PoK) as volatile. "This is the broad daylight murder that is taking place in PoK. Our lives are in danger," Mirza was quoted by ANI.

He added that overnight police raids are being carried out resulting in the arrest of numerous leaders and activists, further stoking the dissent. He added that clashes between protestors and authorities are keeping Muzaffarabad, Dadyal and Mirpur on the boil. "The protesters hit back and the Rangers retreated," Mirza said. "It seemed as if the Rangers had disappeared from the scene, but then they came with a heavy contingency," he added.

The activist added that army commandos are being deployed via helicopters into Muzaffarabad. "Each helicopter, he notes, carries about 20 to 25 commandos," he said, raising concerns about the potential for further violence and loss of life.

"We are in a desperate situation," Mirza said, adding that the blackout of internet services in the region has compounded the sense of isolation and uncertainty among residents.

Mirza urged the Indian government to raise the issue at the United Nations and demand answers from the Pakistani ambassador. 

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