Today's Paper | June 16, 2024

Published 16 May, 2024 06:42pm

PM Shehbaz stresses permanent solution to AJK residents’ issues

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday said the government would seek a permanent solution to the issues faced by the people of Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK).

Addressing a special meeting of the AJK cabinet during a daylong visit there, the premier ordered the formation of a committee to discuss issues like water charge, Neelum–Jhelum Hydropower Plant and others for the benefit of the residents.

He said the country’s progress was linked with that of the region and assured the leaders that the government would ensure the implementation of mutual understanding.

Referring to the recent protests, PM Shehbaz said the people had “raised their voices for their genuine demands but amidst that some miscreants tried to create riots and cause killings”.

He expressed his grief on the killing of a police official and three citizens during the clashes and announced that his government would support their respective grieved families under the Shuhada Package.

The prime minister said that the provision of Rs23 billion approved by his government had been released, which AJK premier Chaudhary Anwaarul Haq also confirmed receiving.

Haq highlighted that PM Shehbaz’s visit to his region manifested the value Pakistan accorded to AJK.

PM Shehbaz further assured that, after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) team’s visit was over, the federal minister and secretary for power would consult with the AJK authorities to seek a permanent solution to the issues and prevent the recurrence of such incidents.

The premier asked his AJK counterpart to constitute a committee in his region for necessary consultation with the relevant Pakistani ministries, urging him to take personal ownership of the matter.

He instructed the relevant authorities to immediately complete the construction of a bridge for the Mangla Phase-2 project. Regarding the Neelum–Jhelum Hydropower Plant, he said the federal water secretary and Kashmir Affairs Minister Amir Muqam would discuss the matter with the Kashmiri leadership to formulate short-, medium- and long-term solutions.

The premier appreciated President Asif Ali Zardari, PM Haq, Muqam and AJK’s assembly speaker, chief secretary, and police chief for their constructive role and effective consultation for an immediate solution to the people’s demands.

The prime minister was accompanied by federal cabinet members and senior government officers during his visit.

According to a post on X by the federal government, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Pakistani and the AJK rulers was signed with regard to the 960 MegaWatt Dudhnial Hydropower Project in the presence of PM Shehbaz.

AJK protests, clashes

The Jammu Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC), which has traders at the forefront in most parts of the state, has been seeking the provision of electricity as per hydropower generation cost in AJK, subsidised wheat flour and an end to the privileges of the elite class.

On May 9 and 10, around 70 activists were arrested by police in a bid to prevent a long march — announced by the JAAC to press the government to comply with an agreement reached between the two in February this year — triggering serious clashes in Dadyal and a “shutter-down strike” call.

Amid a crippling strike on Friday, fierce clashes between police and protesters were witnessed in different areas of Muzaffarabad.

The next day, AJK witnessed violent clashes between the police and the activists amid a wheel-jam and shutter-down strike across the territory, leaving at least one police official dead and more than 90 others injured.

On Sunday, as a possible agreement between the JAAC and the AJK government had remained elusive, the situation initially remained calm but the protest movement resumed its march on Muzaffarabad.

Earlier this week, PM Shehbaz approved the immediate provision of Rs23bn to AJK. However, the situation stayed tense as three people were shot dead and six sustained injuries due to firing and teargas shelling by the paramilitary Rangers in Muzaffarabad.

On Tuesday, the JAAC called off a protest march, stating that the government had accepted all of its demands.

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