MUZAFFARABAD: In Azad Jammu and Kashmir, calm is always relative to events in Indian Occupied Kashmir.
This proved to be no more true than in 2016 when violence suddenly erupted in IoK in July after Kashmiri freedom fighter Burhan Muzaffar Wani was killed by Indian security officials. That sparked a wave of violence in IOK. However, that violence had a spillover effect with a period of increased cross-border firing by Indian troops across the Line of Control.
The Indian cross-border firing, considered by many in Pakistan to be a ploy divert world attention from the situation in IOK, has been the most brutal in recent times.
Unprovoked firing by Indian forces left at least 39 civilians, including 10 women and eight children, dead and over 128 injuries.
Indian forces violated the ceasefire all along the LoC in Bhimber, Neelum, Batal, Nakyal and Nezapir sectors over than 200 times.
The worst of the firing saw Indian forces target two civilian vans. Once in Neleum Valley on November 23 which left 11 people dead, including rescue workers. Then again on December 16, Indian forces targeted a school van in Kotli sector killing the driver on spot and injuring eight schoolchildren. Due to the Indian army’s shelling, at least 77 houses were damaged and more than 300 families were displaced.
AJK, which is usually the first to agitate about the situation in IOK, saw only muted rallies.
With the political, religious parties and government preoccupied with general elections, there were few street protests over Wani’s killing and the subsequent violence in IOK. Around seven protests were jointly staged by the AJK government and other political and religious parties.
Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), AJK which is considered a pro-active religious party and a strong proponent of anti-India rallies since 1990, only managed to stage two large protests.
The biggest event in AJK during the year was the general elections which saw the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz follow the national trend in replacing the Pakistan Peoples Party as the power holders in Muzaffarabad.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2017.