The unfolding civil unrest

All of this has taken political analysts and parties by surprise

An incident that took place at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Muzafarabad, the capital of Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK), is an indication of what might come next.

On September 7 a young man switches his mobile phone camera on and begins to record the conversation he is having with a military personal which in minutes turns into an argument followed by an assault on the civilian.

The young man is asking for medical assistance for a relative he has brought to the CMH for medical attention. But the military guards in full uniform stop him at the gates and would not allow him to enter the premises.

They ask the young man to stop filming but he continues to record. In the end another guard approaches him and beats him into submission.

The military stationed in PoJK has become highly anxious about civilians in recent days. This is because of the on-going civil unrest in PoJK against the sky rocketed taxes imposed on electricity bills.

Pakistan buys electricity from PoJK for less than Rs 4 per unit and then sells it back to PoJK at a rate of up to Rs 53 per units.

Protests that began four months ago have now spread all across PoJK. School children have also joined the protest rallies chanting slogans against and its military.

An agreement signed between the then PoJK government and government of Pakistan back in 1962 has now surfaced and has become another source of national humiliation for the residents of PoJK.

According to the agreement Pakistan’s ministry of ports and shipping solely owns the fishing and boating rights on all dams that are constructed in PoJK using rivers that flow through PoJK.

On September 5, Pakistan federal board of revenue (FBR) announced that two new check posts would be established at Kohala crossing point and at Mangla- Mirpur road. This has angered the population of PoJK even more.

Contrary to claims made by the FBR that it will be able to save Rs 60 billion annually that is currently being lost in smuggling, the locals see this development as yet another act by Pakistan to trick them into paying custom duties worth billions of rupees.

On September 6, a shopkeeper locked up Bashir Ahmed for not clearing his previous dues. Ahmed is an employee of the dysfunctional medical college in Muzafarabad where 157 employees of the college are on strike due to non- payment of salaries for months forcing them to buy daily essentials from local shops on credit.

However, with no possibility of receiving salaries in the near future in sight, the shopkeepers have not only stopped giving credit but are now demanding that the previous outstanding balance should be cleared at once.

Thousands of government employees have not received any salaries for the past 20 months. Their families are starving and children have been taken off the school register due to non-payment of tuition fees.

All of the above is being repeated in every single city and town in PoJK. And even villagers have now begun to come out in protest demonstrating how deep the resentment against increased taxes and Pakistan runs in today’s PoJK society. The recent outburst of anger and bitterness is being seen as a culmination of 76 years of occupation and oppression of PoJK by Pakistan.

In Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan (PoGB) public anger is such that hundreds of thousands of protestors are now openly asking for the PoGB border with India to be reopened so that they can resume trade with Ladakh.

All of this has taken political analysts and parties by surprise and lack of any concrete analysis of ground realities has added to their confusion.

Traditional political parties have fallen into blankness and are unable to guide the civil unrest to a logical conclusion.

None seem to have a tangible perspective because they had been blowing the ‘triumphant’ tunes that were handed over to them by the Pakistan military establishment.

While the IMF is conducting experiments to revive a long dead Pakistan economy by applying shock therapy tactics and panic sale of the country’s assets is underway, the spirits of an angry people in both PoJK and PoGB swing like a pendulum between hope and despair.

Enhanced hope can turn the tide of the history of our region in a fruitful way with the deliverance of freedom.

However, if the pendulum swung further towards despair then the world could be on the verge of witnessing yet another religious-fanatic genocide and a tsunami of counter-revolution from which the sub-continent will not be able to recover for generations to come.

Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoJK. He currently lives in exile in the UK.

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