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One Kashmir votes peacefully, other erupts in violent chaos: PoJK protesters killed by Pakistani forces for demanding basic rights and fair prices

The increase in several tariff rates has sparked widespread resentment. Furthermore, the Pakistan government's elimination of wheat subsidies, combined with widespread bureaucratic corruption, has exacerbated the people's hardships.

On Monday (13th May), for the first time since 1996, Srinagar achieved the highest voter engagement of 38%, as a huge number of people exercised their right to vote, even in places that had previously seen widespread poll boycotts.

According to Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) PK Pole, the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency received more than 38% of votes, the highest turnout since 1996. “I am glad to announce that the Srinagar Parliamentary constituency today recorded the highest ever voting percentage of over 38,” Pole was quoted as saying.

The J&K administration also confirmed a vote percentage of 38.3 in the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency at 10 pm. Pole stated that there was a lot of energy among the voters, and the voting was done in a very peaceful environment.

The peaceful voting in Jammu and Kashmir, and successful completion of election campaigns and the enthusiasm among voters were the biggest endorsement of the abrogation of Article 370 back in 2019. Naysayers, and enemies of India had predicted utter chaos, and the complete rejection of the move by the general public of the region. However, peace ruled. The people of Jammu and Kashmir, who are finally witnessing growth, trade, and healthy economic activities after decades of violence, have displayed that they are for development and peace.

Across the LoC, the contrast could not have been more sharp

While democracy was being honored in one part of the Union Territory, the other part of the region across the LoC faced massive chaos as Rangers of the Pakistani Army open-fired on the protesters in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir resulting in multiple casualties.

This is after Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif announced his approval to grant a subsidy amounting to Rs 24 billion for Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir where there have been several days of violent protests over inflation and tariff rise.

Notably, he also urged all the authorities and parties to resort to a peaceful course of action for the resolution of the protesters’ demands. “There should be absolutely no tolerance for taking the law into one’s own hands and damaging government properties. I have spoken to PM AJK and also directed all PML-N office bearers in AJK to talk to the leaders of the action committee and I urge all parties to resort to a peaceful course of action for resolution of their demands. Despite the best efforts of detractors, the matter will hopefully be settled soon,” the Pakistan PM was quoted as saying.

In spite of the immediate orders and actions of the Pakistan government, the Pakistani rangers, a paramilitary force under the Pakistan Army, opened fire in Muzaffarabad, killing at least four citizens protesting against inflation and exploitation, potentially escalating the already volatile situation in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

As per the reports, the Pakistani Rangers, who had been presumed to have been removed, began indiscriminate gunfire as protesters from around the region marched to the capital. Several disturbing videos and images of the gunfire have specifically been obtained by OpIndia in which the protesters can be seen injured and struggling to save their lives.

As per the reports, 4 civilians also are said to have been killed by the Pakistan Army as the latter opened fire. The civilians in Muzzafarabad were reportedly protesting and demanding their fundamental rights. In several other videos posted on social media platforms, the protesters could also be seen crying over the loss of four civilian lives.

The other civilian protesters meanwhile also bid farewell to one of the persons who lost his life in the chaos erupted by the Pakistani Army in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The video of the incident is making rounds on social media.

Govt order announcing power tariff cuts in PoJK

Reports say that while the government on one hand announced price cuts, they said the development funds for the region would have to be cut.

Later, the enraged Kashmiris could also be seen pelting stones at the vehicles of Pakistan rangers. Kashmiris have been organizing a long march against atrocities by the Pakistan Govt and Army demanding basic rights including electricity and wheat. Massive protests are underway in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Dawn reported that the Rangers were supposed to move out of the territory (Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir) via Brarkot — the village bordering Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. However, they chose to exit the region from Kohala. When the 19-vehicle convoy reached Muzaffarabad amid much unrest and a ‘charged atmosphere’, the people raised slogans and pelted stones. The Rangers then started firing their weapons at the protesters.

The rising prices of electricity prices and withdrawal of subsidies over wheat have forced the residents of the region to come out on the streets in protest. Severe taxes and a lack of basic amenities have led to widespread protests in the occupied territory where the locals turned violent. The recent events have exposed the harsh realities of the Pakistani administration in the territory illegally occupied from India.

While the Pakistan government has ‘named’ the illegally occupied region as ‘Azaad’ Kashmir, in reality, they exploit the resources while keeping its people deprived of the basic necessities, rights, and development.

Why the protests

As reported earlier, Pakistan has recently faced significant economic challenges. The unfriendly neighbor’s administration has been under scrutiny due to an almost depleted treasury, political instability, and mounting foreign borrowing. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently advised Pakistan to implement “strong cost-side reforms” to restore the profitability of its energy sector.

The IMF advised Pakistan to eliminate power subsidies for the energy sector in the upcoming fiscal year 2024-25 budget. The public is already feeling the strain, as evidenced by rising power prices. The current pricing per unit under 100 units is Rs 22 per unit, increasing to Rs 65 per unit if more than 700 units are used per billing cycle.

The increase in several tariff rates has sparked widespread resentment. Furthermore, the Pakistan government’s elimination of wheat subsidies, combined with widespread bureaucratic corruption, has exacerbated the people’s hardships.

Responding the to atrocities of the Pakistani government, the locals came out on the streets. However, the Pakistani government decided to curb the protests using force rather than dialogue. Earlier several units of Pakistani rangers and local police were deployed to disperse the protests and stop them at the budding stage. Rangers could also be seen using AK-47s on the civilians.

One of the policemen is also said to have lost life amid the chaos with 100 others reported injured. The situation in the valley remains tensed as the authorities continue to implement harsh actions including lathi-charge and firing of tear gas shells, besides blockades.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Siddhi Somani
Siddhi Somani
Siddhi Somani is known for her satirical and factual hand in Economic, Social and Political writing. Having completed her post graduation in Journalism, she is pursuing her Masters in Politics. The author meanwhile is also exploring her hand in analytics and statistics. (Twitter- @sidis28)

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