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Massive protest erupts in POK over taxes and arrests, Pakistan cracks down

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Massive protests broke out in Dadyal tehsil of Mirpur district, Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) on Friday (May 10) over unjust taxes and the arrest of dozens of activists.

A protest was planned for Saturday (May 11) over the Pakistan-imposed taxes and rising prices, but the deployment of additional forces and arrests of 70 activists angered people, and they took to the streets on Friday itself. The protestors reportedly pelted stones at the security personnel and clashed with them.

The Pakistani administration had tried to crush the protests planned for May 11 by deploying additional troops from the Pakistan Rangers and Frontier Corps and with the arrest of the activists.

Seventy activists have been detained by police to prevent a ‘long march’ announced by the Jammu and Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee, reported The Dawn.

The police also fired teargas shells to disperse the protesting crowd, some of which also landed in a nearby school and injured several girls, according to the DAWN report.

The Jammu and Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee had planned a general strike and transport strike on Friday to press the Pakistani government to comply with an agreement reached between the two in February this year. The government in Islamabad failed to fulfil the promises of the agreement, resulting in the protests.

Currently, personnel from the Front Corps, Rangers, and Quick Response Force (QRF) of Punjab Province are on the streets of the area, reported news agency ANI.

In the wee hours of Thursday, police in Muzaffarabad (administrative centre of POK) carried out raids on the home of a trader leader Shaukat Nawaz Mir, along with the homes of several others of the action committee.

The police detained eight committee members, including two student leaders, reported DAWN.

Political activist Amjad Ayub Mirza, speaking to ANI, condemned the incident, emphasising that violence against peaceful protesters in POK is intolerable.

“After the police shelled in Dadyal Mirpur, there has been a widespread reaction with people retaliating by physically confronting police, Srinagar-based journalist Sajid Yousuf Shah posted on X.

Similar protests over high electricity charges started in the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) earlier in August 2023, and spread like a wildfire across the Islamic Republic.

While some cities and towns saw the protests taking a violent turn, a call for civil disobedience went viral on social media.

Pakistanis have been reeling under back-breaking inflation, worsened by the stringent conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund while approving a $3-billion financial assistance package. The increase in electricity charges added to the problems, and people in Pakistan have been forced to take to the streets.

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