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Protesting Kashmiri refugees want demands fulfilled

June 11, 2013

MUZAFFARABAD, June 10: Hundreds of Kashmiri refugees, staging a demonstration here on Monday, warned that if their demands were not met by June 20, they would march on the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Legislative Assembly building.

The main demands of the demonstrators included increase in their subsistence allowance, issuance of national identity cards to them and revival of their quota in jobs.

The demonstration caused terrible traffic jam on the busy thoroughfare for more than two hours, leaving motorists and passengers stranded in scorching heat.

The refugees assembled near Garhi Pan Chowk, from where they marched on foot on the main road and staged a sit-in outside Central Press Club where their leaders delivered fiery speeches.

Officials say that around 37,770 refugees (7,361 families) live in various camps in AJK. Of them, 64 per cent live in district Muzaffarabad. The refugees are entitled to Rs 1500 monthly subsistence allowance per head, which they say is incommensurate with their living costs.

The AJK government, it may be recalled here, had allocated 25 per cent quota in AJK jobs to the Kashmiri refugees settled in Pakistan.

However, after the influx of fresh refugees in 1990 and onwards, 6 per cent of that quota was allocated for them in government jobs.

The post 1990 refugees alleged that the Peoples Party government (in AJK) had been committing severe injustices to them and added that they were being made to feel that they were sort of an unwanted liability.

“There should be an end to damaging our self-esteem,” one of them stressed.

They claimed that their educated youths were suffering from mental and psychological problems on seeing that doors to jobs had been closed on them.

“We have offered sacrifices for the freedom of our homeland and defence and stability of Pakistan, so why this treatment to us,” questioned another speaker.

The refugee leaders said that if the governments in Islamabad and Muzaffarabad considered them as a burden on Pakistan and AJK, they should send them back to the Indian held territory through Chakothi crossing point with ‘honour and dignity.’

They also demanded that they should be issued identity cards so that they could enjoy equal rights.

They regretted that the refugees who had been affected in 2005 earthquake were yet to be rehabilitated at the alternate site.

It may be mentioned here that the AJK government has allotted 731 4-marla plots to as many refugee families in Thotha satellite town near here and an Arab NGO had pledged to construct houses for them free of cost.

Meanwhile, in a statement AJK minister for rehabilitation Abdul Majid Khan made it clear that there had been no discrimination between the locals and the refugees and the AJK government was ‘serious and sincere’ in addressing the problems of Kashmiri refugees.

The issue of job quota for refugees and their rehabilitation have been settled through a government notification, said Mr Khan, who has been returning from one of the 12 refugee constituencies in Pakistan and added that the issue of ID cards had also been taken up with the concerned authorities and an official committee headed by the chief secretary was working for its early resolution.