Protesting for rights

May 19, 2024

Protests against rising prices of wheat flour and electricity by people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir turn violent

Protesting for rights


zad Jammu and Kashmir recently witnessed an unusual public outcry and violent protests against the hikes in pries of electricity and wheat flour. The protests, in the form of marches from various parts of the valley — mainly Rawalakot — were headed towards Muzaffarabad where a sit-in was planned in front of the legislative assembly.

The federal government took notice of the issue when the protests started turning violent on May 8 as law enforcement agencies in the AJK started using force against the protesters.

The march under the banner of the Joint Action Committee comprising several civil society organisations and traders’ associations has been pressing the issue for some time. The AJK has two major hydel power plants: Mangla Dam and the Neelam-Jehlum Hydropower Project.

Three civilians and a policeman died in the clashes and several people were injured in various parts of the AJK. Realising the severity of the protests and rising clashes between people and law enforcement agencies, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and senior leadership of the Pakistan Army engaged with the JAC in view of the trust deficit between the protesters and the AJK government.

The prime minister approved an immediate provision of Rs 23 billion for the AJK, ordering the release of the amount within a day. The PM also visited Muzaffarabad last week as part of his reconciliation effort and for the restoration of confidence. The visit also aimed at ensuring the implementation of the understanding and seeking a permanent solution to the issues facing the people of Kashmir.

The prime minister also formed a high level committee to discuss issues like water charges and electricity price relief. “The people of the AJK raised their voices for their demands. However, some miscreants tried to cause riots and killings,” he said.

Protesting for rights

When clashes turned violent, the police started arresting dozens of people. It has been alleged that they tried to stop peaceful protests using force.

“Our demands have been met. Electricity triffs have been drastically reviewed. Also, a wheat price subsidy has been announced. We hope that things will be better soon,” said Shauket Nawaz Mir, one of the key leaders of the JAC and chairman of the Traders’ Association, Muzaffarabad.

When clashes turned violent, the police started arresting dozens of people. They allegedly tried to stop protesters using force. “AJK Prime Minister Anwar-ul Haq allegedly threatened protestors. This further agitated the protestors,” a JAC representative said.

Rangers were called to safeguard sensitive buildings and installations. Reserve force from Punjab Police was also called to deal with any emergency.

“By the grace of God the issue has been handled with the help of federal government. The situation should not have gone to that level. Some time was required to settle things as per demands,” said Waqar Ahmed Noor, the AJK interior minister.

“Our main demands have been met. We are waiting for the release of dozens of activists. Police cases have been lodged against many people,” said a JAC representatives. He praised the role of the federal government and the armed forces.

The writer, a staff member, can be reached at He tweets at @waqargillani

Protesting for rights