Home » Calm Returns to Azad Kashmir as Rangers Withdraw

Calm Returns to Azad Kashmir as Rangers Withdraw

by Mohammed Ahmed

The situation in Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), showed signs of stabilization on Sunday following a tumultuous few days marked by violent clashes between police and activists of the Jammu Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC). The conflicts, which erupted over demands for cheaper electricity and flour, resulted in the death of a police sub-inspector and injuries to more than 90 individuals.

In response to the escalating violence, three battalions of Rangers were initially deployed to the region. However, their presence was short-lived as they were called back upon entering AJK, a decision facilitated by President Asif Zardari to ease tensions. This move came after interventions at the highest levels and reflects an effort to manage the conflict through dialogue rather than force.

The protests were sparked by a series of arrests of JAAC members, which led to widespread demonstrations and a shutter-down strike that paralyzed the region. The JAAC has been vocal about the economic burdens faced by the residents of AJK, particularly criticizing the high costs of basic utilities, which they argue do not reflect the hydropower generation capacity of the region.

Local leaders, including former AJK Prime Minister Sardar Abdul Qayyum Niazi, have criticized the handling of the situation, describing the deployment and subsequent withdrawal of the Rangers as a political drama. Meanwhile, AJK Minister for Rural Development Faisal Mumtaz Rathore admitted the challenges in addressing public demands for cheaper electricity, which he stated were beyond his jurisdiction and required intervention from the Government of Pakistan.

Amidst these developments, the JAAC reaffirmed its commitment to peaceful protests and announced plans for continued demonstrations to press for their demands. These actions highlight the deep-rooted frustrations among AJK residents over perceived economic injustices and the slow pace of governmental response.

The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif, has acknowledged the gravity of the situation and has called for peaceful negotiations. The government’s stance suggests a readiness to engage with the protestors’ demands, aiming to prevent further violence and stabilize the region.

As AJK moves towards recovery from the recent upheavals, there is a collective call from political and civil leaders for patience and responsible dialogue to address the underlying issues fueling the unrest.

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