Protests Erupt in Violence Across Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir

Protests against heavy taxation, high inflation and electricity shortages turned violent as police cracked down on demonstrators in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir’s capital, Muzaffarabad, and other areas.

The protests were organized by the Jammu and Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee, which had called for a shutter-down and wheel-jam strike in Muzaffarabad on Friday. They demanded tax-free electricity from the Mangla Dam and subsidies for wheat flour.

However, the situation escalated after overnight police raids resulted in the arrests of numerous committee leaders and activists ahead of a planned long march towards Muzaffarabad on May 11th.

Clashes broke out between protesters and law enforcement in towns like Dadyal, Mirpur, Samahni, Sehansa, Rawalakot, Khuiratta, Tattapani and Hattian Bala. Videos circulating on social media showed demonstrators beating security personnel with sticks and chasing them away.

The administration tried to stifle the protests by deploying additional troops from the Pakistan Rangers and Frontier Corps. Section 144, prohibiting public gatherings, was imposed in some areas.

According to reports, police also resorted to teargas shelling and firing bullets in the air to disperse the crowds. A school in Dadyal was affected when teargas landed inside, injuring several girls.

The crackdown has drawn criticism, with political activists condemning the use of violence against peaceful protesters in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir as unacceptable.

The protests highlight the economic woes plaguing the region and Pakistan. Pakistanis have been reeling under back-breaking inflation, exacerbated by the stringent conditions imposed by the IMF while approving a $3 billion bailout package. Electricity charges have also steeply increased, increasing the population’s problems.

As the administration tries to regain control through force, the protests reflect wider public anger in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir over the lack of economic relief and suppression of dissent by authorities.

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