AJK situation comes to national spotlight

President Zardari urges restraint; Prime Minister Shehbaz to hold meeting today to discuss crisis

News Desk May 12, 2024
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. PHOTO: PID/FILE


The president and prime minister of the country intervened on Sunday to attempt to de-escalate the situation in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) arising from an ongoing protest against the regional government’s alleged failure to implement an agreement promising economic relief to the people.

The AJK witnessed violent clashes between the police and activists of a rights movement, which resulted in at least one police official dead and dozens injured on Saturday. A complete strike has also been observed in the territory since Friday, bringing life to a halt.

In view of the gravity of the situation, President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday urged all stakeholders to exercise restraint and resolve the issues through dialogue and mutual consultation.

“The political parties, state institutions, and the people of AJK should act responsibly so that hostile elements cannot exploit the situation to their benefit,” Zardari said while addressing a delegation of PPP lawmakers in the AJK Legislative Assembly according to an official statement.

Expressing his sorrow over the death of the policeman, the president emphasized that the demands of the people of AJK should be addressed according to the law.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also expressed deep concern over the ongoing situation in AJK on Sunday, urging all parties to adopt a peaceful course of action to resolve their demands.

He emphasized that while debate, discussion, and peaceful protests were the hallmarks of democracy, there was no tolerance for those who take the law into their own hands and damage government properties. “Unfortunately, in situations of chaos and dissent, there are always some who rush in to score political points,” he stated.

He also spoke to AJK Prime Minister Chaudhry Anwar-ul-Haq and directed all PML-N office bearers in the region to engage with the leaders of the Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC) that is pushing for the implementation of its 10-point charter of demands.

“Despite the efforts of detractors, the matter is expected to be settled soon,” he added.

Read more: AJK's joint action committee dissociates from violent incidents

According to sources, the PM is going to convene a high-level meeting today (Monday) to discuss the ongoing protest in the region.

Various stakeholders including the AJK PM, Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs Amir Muqam, and ministers for food and energy will attend the meeting. The premier will also hold a meeting with the PML-N’s AJK chapter.

In December 2023, the Azad Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC) came to an agreement with an official reconciliation committee, followed by a government notification issued on February 4.

However, in April, the committee declared its intention to organize a long march on May 11, protesting the government's “failure” to fulfill its written commitments.

JAAC, which has traders at the forefront in most parts of the state, has been seeking the provision of electricity as per hydropower generation cost in the AJK, subsidized wheat flour, and an end to the privileges of the elite class.

Last week, several JAAC members were arrested by police in Muzaffarabad and Mirpur divisions. The committee announced a strike on Friday as the AJK police blocked the arteries leading to Muzaffarabad and resorted to baton-charge and teargas shelling to disperse the protesters on Saturday.

During clashes with protestors, a policeman died in Mirpur with dozens of others sustaining injuries. As the crackdown against the protesters continued, several people were taken into custody from different parts of the region.

Meanwhile, opposition leader in the AJK Assembly, Khawaja Farooq Ahmed, who belongs to the PTI, initiated contact with political stakeholders to defuse the situation.

Read: Cop dies in AJK clashes over high power tariff

Ahmed is planning to convene a meeting of all political parties in AJK to resolve the issue, stating his party has already supported the protestors' demands for the provision of subsidized flour, supply of cheap electricity, and ending concessions to the elite.

“There is no winner in the conflict between the people and security personnel; everyone will lose. The clashes that occurred in AJK have exacerbated tensions.

“It is the responsibility of the political leadership to resolve issues through dialogue on public issues. The confrontation between the people and security agencies will lead to the defeat of everyone,” Ahmed added.


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