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Unrest in Azad Kashmir: A Call for Reason and Resolution

Unrest in Azad Kashmir: A Call for Reason and Resolution

FILE PHOTO 

By Waleed Sami


In the peaceful valleys of Azad Kashmir, where the green hills whisper tales of serenity and harmony, a storm brews on the horizon. Recent events have shaken the region's longstanding reputation for peace, as protests once characterised by non-violence have taken a dangerous turn. In the aftermath of Inspector Adnan's tragic demise at the hands of political zealots, the once-tranquil landscape of Azad and Jammu Kashmir (Aj&K) finds itself engulfed in turmoil, grappling with the complexities of dissent, governance, and external interference.


At the heart of the unrest lies the Awami Action Committee, a collective voice for Kashmiri grievances, whose demands for affordable electricity, subsidised wheat, and improved telecommunications resonate with the people’s aspirations. However, amidst such apparently legitimate calls for change, lurks a shadow of intended chaos and disruption, which is threatening to hijack the narrative and plunge Kashmir into a spree of confusion and instability.


The demands put forth by the Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC), while reflective of genuine concerns, highlight a deeper issue of governance and economic viability. The call for electricity production at cost price raises questions of feasibility and sustainability, as the Government grapples with the realities of managing resources and maintaining essential services. Electricity in Kashmir is still available at the lowest price, at 2.69 rupees per unit, while in Pakistan, it is 22 rupees. The Pakistani Government can only subsidise to a certain extent, but not give it for free.


Similarly, the demand for tax exemptions disregards the intricate balance between revenue generation and public welfare, underscoring the need for pragmatic solutions grounded in economic reality. JAAC demands that no income tax, property tax, or GST should be imposed in AJ&K. It is important to understand that the AJ&K Government leading a system with 130,000 Government employees. The 30% of the non-development budget goes only to the salaries of Education Department employees. 10% goes to the salaries of Electricity and Health Department employees, respectively. The total budget presented this year is 232 billion rupees. If taxes are not collected, how can the Government generate revenue? Demanding a reduction in taxes can be considered, but not collecting taxes is next to impossible.


Compounding the challenge is the lack of cohesive leadership within the JAAC, exacerbated by regional complexities and divergent interests. With Mirpur, Bhimber, Kotli, Rawalakot, Poonch, Bagh, Muzaffarabad, Hattian, and Neelum each facing unique challenges, consensus remains elusive, perpetuating a cycle of deadlock and discord. The reluctance of local political leaders to engage constructively further undermines efforts at reconciliation, as personal agendas overshadow the collective welfare of Kashmiris.


Yet, amidst the chaos, a glimmer of hope emerges - a call for dialogue and reason. The recommendation to sit at the table with the Government, presenting legitimate and resolved demands, offers a path forward amidst the tumult. By separating the disruptors from their ranks and engaging in meaningful dialogue, Kashmiris can reclaim agency over their future, charting a course towards peace and prosperity.


However, the spectre of external interference looms large, as the Indian Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and other disruptive elements exploit the unrest to further their agendas. Fabricated narratives and incendiary tactics sow seeds of division, undermining efforts at reconciliation and stoking the flames of conflict. As Kashmiris grapple with the consequences of foreign interference, the need for unity and resilience becomes ever more pressing, lest the region fall prey to external manipulation and exploitation.


Amidst this backdrop of unrest and uncertainty, ordinary Kashmiris bear the brunt of the turmoil, their livelihoods tethered to the ebbs and flows of tourism and agriculture. The disruption of the tourism season threatens to plunge the region into economic hardship, as local businesses struggle to survive amidst the chaos. With agriculture and tourism forming the bedrock of Kashmiri livelihoods, the stakes could not be higher, as the spectre of hunger and poverty looms large over the horizon.


In the aftermath of the May 9th 2023, protests, which saw violent clashes between law enforcement agencies and demonstrators, the need for timely legal intervention becomes evident. Had legal action been taken against the perpetrators of violence, the situation may have been different, underscoring the importance of upholding the rule of law in the face of adversity. Yet, the failure to rein in violent extremists only served to encourage their cause, perpetuating a cycle of violence and retribution that threatened to engulf the region in further turmoil.


India's vested interests in destabilising Azad Kashmir are evident, as is evidenced by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's remarks on the changing ground situation in Kashmir. By exploiting internal discord and fomenting unrest, India seeks to undermine Pakistan's sovereignty and assert its dominance in the region. However, the resilience of Kashmiris and the unwavering commitment of the Pakistani Government offer a beacon of hope amidst the darkness, as efforts are underway to address the grievances of Kashmiris and restore peace to the region.


Furthermore, contrary to Minister Singh’s claims, the real scenes are far grimmer than it was thought. The people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir inhabit the area strongly, refusing the idea of becoming a part of India on the basis that the dangers of ethnic and religious persecution in case of a merger, are very high and also pose a threat to the cultural identity of region, resulting from such a merger.


As President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif spearhead efforts to find a swift resolution to the crisis, collaboration between federal and regional authorities becomes paramount. By working together with sincerity and determination, Pakistan can navigate the stormy seas of unrest and chart a course towards a brighter future for Azad Kashmir. In the heart of the valleys, where the rivers flow with tales of resilience and courage, the call for peace reverberates louder than ever, uniting Kashmiris in their quest for a future free from strife and oppression. As the sun sets over the mountains, may it herald a new dawn of peace and prosperity for generations to come. Kashmir is and will remain a beneficial part of Pakistan.

 

 

*Opinions expressed in this article are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The South Asia Times   

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