Widespread protests across Pakistan-controlled Kashmir as Islamabad seeks to undermine autonomy

There is a powerful undercurrent of discontent in the Kashmir region that
is under Pakistan’s control. Kashmiri people are angry over the repeated
attempts by the Islamabad government to divest the region of its special
power and take complete control over the administration. Moreover, there
has been an outcry that Islamabad does not take the people in Pakistan-
controlled Kashmir into confidence or consult them before taking big
decisions for them. The recent act of resentment is the move by Islamabad
that seeks to transfer financial and legislative powers from the local
government to the federal government of Pakistan.
Kashmiri people alleged that the Pakistan government wanted to strip them
of their powers, which at present allow them to make laws according to
their needs and collect taxes. Islamabad government has proposed an
amendment to the constitution, which would cause the region to lose its
status as a self-governing entity. People and political parties in Kashmir
have opposed the move, which has added to the distrust between the
Kashmiris and the government.

Protests have broken in all 10 districts of the region, which is locally known
as Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) —which literally means free Jammu &
Kashmir. Protestors said the imperialistic policies of Islamabad want to
coalesce Kashmiris into being a part of Pakistan. “Right from childhood, our
children through social, educational, economic, and cultural mechanisms
are brainwashed or educated on how to be a good slave of Pakistan,” said
activist Shabir Choudhry while criticising Pakistan for trying to usurp
Kashmir’s resources by means of the amendment

Now people have questioned the amendment move by the federal
government since they say it divested the region and Kashmiris of their
rights and freedom.4 Political leaders too have kept their differences aside
and opened a front against the amendment.5 “We held All Parties Kashmir
Conference today in Islamabad. We jointly reject the 15th Amendment &
change of status of AJK,” said Muhammad Yasin, a legislator from the
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which is a part of the PLM-N-led federal
PML-N’s Kashmir wing too has taken strong exception to the amendment. “We represent the people of Azad Kashmir
and we will never compromise on the rights and authority of the people,”
said PML-N Kashmir President, Shah Ghulam Qadir.
Protests were held across Kashmir on Pakistan’s Independence Day seeking
freedom from Pakistan. Despite a harsh crackdown by security agencies,
Kashmiri people came to the street, shut the cities, and chanted slogans
against Pakistan. While major Pakistani news media did not cover the issue,
social media was flooded with protest videos. A medical student named
Shahid Latif Choudhary said, “We reject the 15th amendment of AJK
Assembly. Kashmiri only want their right of self-determination. No
compromise on our beloved state’s identity.”
Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front president Mehtab Ahmed, who calls the
region “Pakistan- Occupied Jammu & Kashmir”, said any attempt by
Islamabad to change AJK’s status would have “severe”consequences.
“People in AJK are standing up and ready to fight for their rights,” he said
People across all 10 districts of Kashmir are holding protests, which have
led to disruption of normal life. There have been clashes between protestors
and security agencies. Police have registered cases against over 400
people in Kashmir. Syed Taqi Ul Hasan, a scribe with Dunya TV, shared
videos of young Kashmiris raising slogans for their freedom, leading to
violent clashes with police.
Kashmiris have been long-suspicious about Islamabad’s intentions to
exploit vast reserves of natural resources the region has. There have been
repeated allegations that the Pakistan state exploits the rich forest, mining
and water resources in Kashmir while Kashmiri people could not get any
benefit. Even locals are not consulted before natural resources from the
region are explored and exploited by Pakistan. Now, Islamabad plans to
establish a tourism authority in Kashmir, which will override the laws that
are in force for forest protection. Local Kashmiris are scared that their land
now will be sold to foreign investors while they have no say over
this. “This is an anti-state, anti-people and anti-environment bill, actually

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