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Monday June 24, 2024

PM convenes huddle on AJK crisis amid calls for restraint

President Asif Ali Zardari has urged all stakeholders to exercise restraint and resolve the issues in Azad Jammu and Kashmir

By Ag App & Asim Yasin & Mumtaz Alvi & News Desk
May 13, 2024
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks during a meeting. — PID/File
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks during a meeting. — PID/File

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has urged all stakeholders to exercise restraint and resolve the issues in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) through dialogue and mutual consultation.

“Political parties, state institutions and people of AJK should act responsibly, so that hostile elements could not exploit the situation to their benefit,” he said during a meeting with a delegation of members of the AJK Legislative Assembly. These members belonged to Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), who called on him at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Sunday. The delegation briefed the president about the recent happenings and unfortunate developments in the AJK.

Talking to the members, President Zardari highlighted that demands of people of AJK should be addressed as per law. He said he would take up and discuss the grievances of people of AJK with the prime minister of Pakistan to find a way out of the current situation. The president emphasized that priority should be accorded to the socio-economic uplift of AJK, with special focus on development of health, education, tourism and infrastructure.

The president regretted the current situation and offered condolences over the unfortunate death of a police officer and prayed for swift recovery of all those who were injured in recent clashes.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has convened a meeting for Monday (today), which will discuss the ongoing situation in AJK. The premier, earlier, said he had spoken to AJK Prime Minister Chaudhry Anwarul Haq and also directed all PMLN office-bearers in AJK to talk to the leaders of the action committee to find a peaceful solution.

In a tweet, he expressed deep concern over the ongoing situation in AJK, urging all parties to adopt a peaceful course of action to get their demands resolved.

The prime minister emphasized that while debate, discussion, and peaceful protests were beauty of democracy, there was no tolerance for taking the law into one’s own hands and damaging the government properties. “Unfortunately, in situations of chaos and dissent, there are always some, who rush in to score political points,” he wrote on his X timeline. “Despite efforts of detractors, the matter is expected to be settled soon.”

Earlier, the AJK government called in the Rangers as the protests and demonstrations against high electricity bills and taxes entered the third day. The protest was organised by the Jammu Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC).

At least one police officer was killed and over 70 sustained injuries during the clashes between the police and protesters in Mirpur. However, the central leadership of JAAC distanced itself from the violent incidents that occurred during the protests.

One of the JAAC members, Sajid Jagwal, said their movement was peaceful. He said they had been sitting for two days and no incident had happened.

Another member, Tauseef Mansoor, said the committee had nothing to do with the two to three incidents that happened during the protests.

Anjuman Tajran President Sahabzada Waqas said the protest was not against the state or any institution. “This army is ours and this country is ours. We are neither against the army nor against Pakistan or any other institution,” said the president.

Yasir Hussain Naqvi, another member of the JAAC, said they were not persuasive of destruction as these were their properties. “These institutions are ours and police are ours,” he added. Naqvi said demands of protesters were legitimate, and there was no demand that could not be resolved.

Mobile phone and internet services were suspended in different parts of AJK on Sunday including Bhimber and Bagh Towns.

Separately, AJK PM Chaudhry Anwarul Haq said the government was ready to give related relief in electricity and flour prices. “The government held negotiations with JAAC and we reached an agreement that we are determined to implement,” assured PM Haq.

“We are ready to talk with JAAC at any level and the demands related to the government of Pakistan will be raised before the Federation,” said the prime minister.

The AJK PM said the JAAC announced a long march for their demands; however, there were some miscreants among the protesters. “The government ensured that no force was used during the protest,” he said.

AJK Peoples Party President Chaudhry Muhammad Yasin said demands of the protesters should be met. “Flour and electricity are cheaper in Gilgit-Baltistan, then why can’t it be cheap in AJK?” he questioned.

“Peoples Party condemns the use of force, arrests and violence against the people and all such policies of the AJK government,” he added.

The AAC had called for a shutter down and wheel-jam strike across the state to protest the electricity price hike and taxes. However, the situation escalated as the protesters and police clashed.

Former premier of AJK Sardar Abdul Qayyum Niazi Sunday demanded PM AJK Chaudhry Anwarul Haq step down instantly and fresh elections should be announced forthwith.

“Fresh polls are imperative so that a new government of public mandate assumes the power to take prompt decisions to rein in the worsening situation in the region, as 40,000 people are on the roads at present protesting for their legitimate demands,” he said during a news conference here.

Flanked by PTI Central Information Secretary Raoof Hasan and senior PTI leader Hamid Pothi, he said the puppet regime, imposed through regime change conspiracy, did not work, rather it compounded the public miseries manifolds during the past one year.

PTI senior leader said AJK PM was a ‘dummy and puppet’ premier, who was imposed on the people of Kashmir by ousting a well-performing PTI government in the region.

In a related development, the political leadership in AJK agreed to join hands over the current tense situation in Azad Kashmir. Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly and senior PTI leader Khawaja Farooq Ahmed interacted with political stakeholders on Sunday.

Kh Farooq contacted State President Barrister Sultan, PPP President Chaudhry Yasin, PMLN President Shah Ghulam Qadir, PTI President Sardar Abdul Qayyum Niazi, President JKPP Hasan Ibrahim, Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Dr Mushtaq for resolving the issue amicably and peacefully. He termed the situation in Azad Kashmir alarming and urged the political leadership to come together to find out a solution. He offered to organise and host a meeting for consultation with all the political leaders in Islamabad.

He said PM Anwarul Haq, former PM Raja Farooq Haider, former PM Sardar Atiq Khan and leaders of Peoples Action Committee would also be invited to the meeting. He said his party had already supported the demands of Awami Action Committee to abolish subsidies on flour, supply of electricity at cost of production and ending privileges of the elite.

Khawaja Farooq said the clashes between the people and security personnel in the state were not in anyone’s interest. He said it was the responsibility of the political leadership to sit together and find solutions to public issues.