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POK unrest: Lessons for Delhi over J&K

POK unrest: Lessons for Delhi over J&K

There’s nothing to gain from ‘schadenfreude’ over protests in POK

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Last Updated : 16 May 2024, 21:59 IST
Last Updated : 16 May 2024, 21:59 IST
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The unrest in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir is not a sudden development. The territory is nominally self-ruled but in reality, it is under the direct control of the federal Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, which in turn defers to the ISI and the Pakistan Army.

The protests in POK began last August, over high electricity charges and a shortage of wheat flour, both of which were linked to Pakistan’s crippling economic situation last year.

The demands remained unaddressed and burst out into the open again this year, more violently this time. Three people died during confrontations with the Pakistan Rangers. The protesters -- mainly civil society members such as activists, lawyers and traders -- are banded together under the umbrella Joint Awami Action Committee, and are asking why they are being subjected to high power tariffs when most of Pakistan’s electricity is generated in hydel stations located in this region.

They are demanding that electricity generated there should be provided to consumers in the region first, and only the surplus be channelled into Pakistan’s national grid. Adding to these grievances is the manner in which an elected “prime minister” of POK, who belongs to Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, was replaced by another, also a former PTI man but propped up by the current rulers in Islamabad.

The deadly protests in Muzaffarabad and elsewhere have forced Islamabad to intervene with a big financial package to ease the region’s woes, restoring a measure of calm. 

The POK ferment has excited much interest in India and reignited claims of reuniting the region with India. The BJP’s senior-most political leaders, including the Home and Defence Ministers, have been quick to take advantage of the propaganda value of promising to “bring back” POK in this election season.

However, India’s political and security establishment would do well to reflect on the stark similarity in the problems that beset the people on both sides of the LoC.

In Jammu & Kashmir, too, people have been complaining for years about their lack of access to the electricity that is produced in the hydel power stations of the state, and the power shortages that disrupt their lives year after year.
For the first time this year, the shortage has continued even after the winter. 

Instead of a sense of schadenfreude at the situation in POK, it would be more constructive if elections to the J&K Assembly were held without further delay, so that the current unaccountable bureaucratic raj in the state can hand over governance back to an elected political class. This is imperative to prevent a build-up of unrest in the state over issues of day-to-day life as well as to move on from the abrogation of Article 370.

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