Pak PM okays $82.6 mn for PoK to halt protests

Wednesday 15th May 2024 07:02 EDT

Islamabad: Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif approved $82.6 million (Pak Rs 2,300cr) for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) in a bid to halt violent protests and strikes against escalating electricity tariffs, flour prices and taxes. The protests have left a police officer dead and 90 others, mostly cops, injured in the last few days. The growing unrest poses a grave challenge to Pakistan’s military, which maintains a significant presence in the region to guard LoC with India.
On Monday, protesters led by Awami Action Committee (AAC), an activist group that has united people to demand lower rates for essentials, continued a march to regional capital Muzaffarabad after talks with the govt ended in deadlock.
The stalemate prompted PM Sharif, already under pressure over postponement of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan, to clear the grant for PoK at a special meeting in Islamabad. The meeting was attended by PoK leader Chaudhry Anwarul Haq and local ministers and other top figures. Following the meeting, Haq announced cuts in bread prices and electricity tariffs.
Mobile and internet services remain suspended in PoK and govt offices, markets, trade centres and educational institutes too stayed shut.
Although there have been no calls for independence in the current wave of turmoil, locals said the protests reflected a general feeling of discontent with Islamabad. In the past, Islamabad had come under fire for suppressing regional movements that demanded total independence.

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