MUZAFFARABAD: The local administration in Kotli district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Thursday imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code barring the holding of public meetings, a day ahead of a planned rally to express solidarity with the victims of ceasefire violations from across the Line of Control (LoC).

“In view of the prevailing situation and wave of terrorism in the country any kind of gathering in sub-division Kotli poses a serious threat to the law and order… Therefore, all kinds of gatherings and rallies are being banned for two months under Section 144,” read an order issued by sub-divisional magistrate Raja Nisar Ahmed Khan.

Separately, police and administration officials held a meeting with Dr Toqeer Gillani of the pro-independence Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and other leaders, in a bid to persuade them to cancel their march.

Mr Gillani told Dawn by telephone that there were three objectives for organising the march.

“First, we want to press that exchange of shelling from both sides should come to a halt. If it’s a ceasefire line and both sides have already signed a ceasefire agreement then there should not be any cross-firing and shelling,” he said.

“Secondly, we want to draw the attention of the international community to the fact that Kashmiris are experiencing hardship for the past seven decades without break and the only way to end their suffering is to resolve the issue of Kashmir,” he said.

“Thirdly, we want to condemn the negligence and incompetence of our own [AJK] government vis-à-vis situation along the ceasefire line. The government has literally left the affected population at the mercy of fate. The schools are closed, health facilities lack basic infrastructure, and compensation is paltry.”

Mr Gillani said the march would begin from Tattapani at 10am and conclude in the Madarpur area of district Poonch at 6pm.

“They [participants] will be carrying white and black flags as a mark of protest against shelling and yearning for truce,” he said.

When asked why the people from other political schools of thought would participate in a march organised by a pro-independence organisation, he said the march had been welcomed by the masses, regardless of political affiliations.

“Political affiliations have become irrelevant along the LoC particularly because the mainstream parties have failed to play a role in alleviating their sufferings,” Mr Gillani claimed.

He said bar associations, traders, farmers and people from other walks of life had expressed gratitude to the JKLF for organising this much-needed event.

“The life of the people living along the ceasefire line has been crippled by incessant shelling and firing. Not a single day goes by when there are no casualties in one or the other sector, so everyone will join us for the common cause,” he said.

About the meeting with police and administration officials, he alleged that they tried to “intimidate us into abandoning the plan’’.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2018