3 killed in firing and teargas shelling by security forces in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir

At least three people were killed and six others injured when security forces opened fire on protesters who attacked paramilitary Rangers in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which has been rocked by protests against high prices of wheat flour and inflated electricity bills, media reports said on Tuesday.
Situation tense as strike in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir
Situation tense as strike in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir

Islamabad | At least three people were killed and six others injured when security forces opened fire on protesters who attacked paramilitary Rangers in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which has been rocked by protests against high prices of wheat flour and inflated electricity bills, media reports said on Tuesday.

The paramilitary Rangers, which were called in to maintain law and order in the disputed region, came under attack in the regional capital Muzaffarabad while moving out of the town, the Dawn newspaper reported.

Instead of exiting via Brarkot, the village bordering Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the 19-vehicle convoy, including five trucks, chose to exit the region from Kohala, it said.

As the convoy reached Muzaffarabad in a “charged atmosphere”, it was pelted with rocks near Shorran da Nakka village, to which they responded with teargas and firing, the report said.

A social media clip verified by Dawn showed three Rangers vehicles ablaze on the Muzaffarabad-Brarkot road.

After entering the city through the Western Bypass, the Rangers were welcomed with rocks again, prompting them to use teargas and bullets. The shelling was so intense that the entire neighbourhood reeled from it, the report said.

Divisional Commissioner Muzaffarabad Sardar Adnan Khurshid said that at least three persons had died in firing by Rangers and another six had suffered wounds.

On Monday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had approved a Rs 23 billion subsidy for immediate release to the region after the negotiations between the protesters and the regional government ended in a deadlock.

However, the government's decision to dole out the subsidy failed to pacify the region, the report said.

The disputed region also witnessed clashes on Saturday between the police and activists of a rights movement, leaving at least one police officer dead and injuring over 100 people, mostly policemen. A complete strike has also been observed in the territory since Friday, bringing life to a halt.

Shortly before the violence, Prime Minister Sharif and the disputed region's "prime minister" Anwarul Haq after a meeting had approved the release of Pakistani Rs 23 billion for the region on account of power and wheat subsidies.

The subsidised rate for 40kg flour will be Pakistani Rs 2,000, down from Pakistani Rs 3,100. The electricity tariff was reduced to Pakistani Rs 3, Rs 5 and Rs 6 per unit for up to 100, 300, and more than 300 units, respectively, the Dawn reported.

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

After the subsidy was announced by the government, the movement leaders said they would decide about it after the issuance of notifications.

The notifications immediately went viral on social media.

On Tuesday, the JAAC called off the ongoing protests as the government "accepted all the demands of the protesters", a JAAC head Shaukat Nawaz Mir said, asking protesters to return to their homes and businesses.

"The shutter-down strike is being called off," he added.

Speaking to a gathering on Monday evening, Mir had said that their legal team would “legally examine” the notifications issued by the government.

“If these notifications do not fulfil legal requirements in accordance with our charter of demand, we, the joint action committee members will unanimously decide our next course of action tonight,” he said.

Mir also demanded financial compensation to the families of three protesters and a police official who were killed in the violence.

Meanwhile, the bodies of two of those killed in the violence had been taken by their kin to the ground adjacent to Eidgah, where slogans were heard against the government and the civil armed forces.

"There is tension and anger in the air,” said Adil Hameed, a resident of the old city of Muzaffarabad. Reports received from other towns in PoK said that people had staged demonstrations to express wrath and indignation at the killings in Muzaffarabad.

Expressing deep concern over the violent clashes between the police and the protesters, Prime Minister Sharif on Sunday said that there should be “absolutely no tolerance for taking the law into one's own hands".

"I urge all parties to resort to a peaceful course of action for resolution of their demands. Despite the best efforts of detractors, the matter will hopefully be settled soon," he said.

As part of his efforts to calm down tensions, President Asif Ali Zardari urged all the stakeholders to exercise restraint and resolve the issues through dialogue and mutual consultation.

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