Home ยป Rs23 Billion Subsidy Fails to Quell AJK Protests

Rs23 Billion Subsidy Fails to Quell AJK Protests

by Mohammed Ahmed

A government decision to provide a Rs23 billion subsidy in response to protests in Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK) has failed to calm the region. The unrest turned violent in Muzaffarabad, leading to the deaths of three people and injuries to six others due to clashes with paramilitary Rangers.

The subsidy, approved by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and AJK PM Anwarul Haq, aimed to reduce the prices of flour and electricity. The price for 40kg of flour was set at Rs2,000, down from Rs3,100, and the electricity tariff was lowered to Rs3, Rs5, and Rs6 per unit for different usage levels. Despite these measures, the protests continued.

Rangers were deployed to maintain order but were supposed to withdraw after the subsidy announcement. However, their convoy, consisting of 19 vehicles, including five trucks, faced resistance as it passed through Muzaffarabad. The Rangers encountered rock-throwing crowds and responded with teargas and gunfire.

Video footage verified by Dawn showed three Rangers vehicles on fire. As the convoy moved through the Western Bypass, more clashes ensued, leading to further use of teargas and bullets. Local elders intervened to guide the Rangers to safety, but the violence had already escalated.

Divisional Commissioner Muzaffarabad Sardar Adnan Khurshid confirmed that three individuals were killed in the clashes. The deceased were identified as Saqib, Waqar, and Azhar, all residents of Muzaffarabad. Six others were injured in the incident.

The unrest followed failed negotiations between the government and the Jammu Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC), which had led the protests. The JAAC had demanded significant subsidies on flour and electricity. After the government announced the subsidies, the JAAC leaders stated they would review the notifications before making a final decision.

Despite the subsidies, tensions remained high, with protesters clashing with police in various locations. Reports indicated ongoing demonstrations in other AJK towns, reflecting widespread dissatisfaction with the government’s response.

AJK PM Chaudhry Anwarul Haq expressed gratitude to PM Shehbaz Sharif for the subsidy, stating that the issues had been resolved promptly. However, the violence underscored the deep-rooted frustrations among the populace.

As the situation unfolds, the AJK government faces significant challenges in addressing the protesters’ demands and restoring peace in the region.

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