MUZAFFARABAD: Amid calls by the business community and religious leaders for a transparent judicial inquiry and exemplary punishment to the perpetrators of a recent attack on an international fast food franchise in Mirpur, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government on Monday condemned the Indian media’s ‘desperate’ attempts to link the incident with ‘extremism.’

In a statement, a spokesman for the AJK home department asserted that the preliminary investigations had revealed that the untoward incident had nothing to do with religious or any other kind of extremism.

“However, until the completion of the prejudice-free investigation process, the authorities concerned have withheld most of the information obtained from the detainees and other sources,” he said.

He regretted that the Indian media has always been habitual of making a mountain out of a molehill in its desperate bids to defame Pakistan and AJK.

“Non-violence, tolerance, and coexistence are the hallmarks of the liberated territory’s peaceful and pluralist society, but India’s ill-informed propagandist media is exploiting and blowing this particular issue out of proportion to serve the interests of the fanatic Modi government.”

“By launching a vicious propaganda campaign about Azad Kashmir, India actually wants to deflect world attention away from the terror it has unleashed in occupied Kashmir,” the spokesman said.

He informed that police had launched a crackdown on the suspects soon after the registration of the FIR, and so far, 60 of them have been apprehended.

Franchise owner Chaudhry Mohammad Saeed, who is also a former minister and local PML-N leader, also dismissed propaganda by the Indian media, asserting that the incident appeared to be an outcome of either some “sort of misunderstanding or rivalry.”

“Our franchise was providing livelihood to over 100 locals, apart from paying a good amount of revenues to the local tax authorities… Some miscreants agitated and misinterpreted the whole issue, as a result of which the gullible demonstrators went out of control,” he said.

Condemning the incident at a press conference, religious scholars from different schools of thought demanded a judicial inquiry to expose elements involved in it covertly or overtly.

“This incident is a result of the negligence of our administration, which did not take us into confidence about the [identity of the] people who they had allowed to stage a protest,” said Mufti Wasim Raza, chairman of the AJK Ulema and Mashaikh Council, at the press conference along with some other colleagues.

Interestingly, the press conference was held in the presence of Mirpur’s additional commissioner, Chaudhry Sajid Aslam. He said neither Islam nor the law of the land allowed a protest where one should damage the properties of his own country.

“Religious scholars are responsible members of society, and they have not allowed the use of their mosques and pulpits for extremism. After a transparent inquiry, the authorities should take strict action against the accused so that such miscreants could not dare damage any property under the garb of religion or extremism,” he said.

Meanwhile, the executive committee and senior members of the AJK Chamber of Commerce and Industries on Monday also urged the government to interrogate and award exemplary punishment to the perpetrators so that no one could dare resort to such an act in the future.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2024

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