• Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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Government approves grant after protests in Pakistani Kashmir

Awami Action Committee members at the funeral of a victim of a clash with security force in Muzaffarabad on Tuesday (14)

By: Eastern Eye

PAKISTAN prime minister Shehbaz Sharif approved a grant of 24 billion rupees ($86 million/ £68m) on Monday (13) for Pakistani Kashmir where there have been several days of violent protests over inflation.

A police official was killed and more than 90 people were injured when thousands of people clashed with police in the region over the weekend, said Shah Nawaz, a local government official. Most businesses and transport remained shut for the fifth consecutive day on Monday.

An alliance of civil rights groups has been leading the campaign, demanding the government give the region a subsidy on electricity and wheat prices in the face of rising inflation.

A statement from Sharif’s office did not clarify how the grant would be used.

Kashmir’s prime minister Anwar-ul-Haq Chaudhry later said the amount would help extend a subsidy to the region.

The subsidised rate for 40 kg (88.2 lb) of flour will be 2,000 rupees, down from 3,100 rupees, he said at a press conference telecast live by local TV channels. He also announced a substantial dip in the electricity prices as well. This was a permanent arrangement, he said.

Police launched a crackdown against the protesters after the violence, arresting dozens of individuals in Muzaffarabad.

A day earlier, the government also suspended mobile phone and internet services in different parts of the region.

According to a report by Dawn, on last Thursday (9) and Friday (10), around 70 activists were arrested by police in a bid to prevent a march.

The protests coincide with the visit of an International Monetary Fund mission to negotiate a new long-term loan with Islamabad after it issued a warning that downside risks for the Pakistani economy remained high.

Inflation slowed to 17.3 per cent in April, below the government’s forecast, which expects more improvement in the country’s economic outlook in the coming months. Inflation had risen as high as 38 per cent in May last year.

The demonstrators, who started the rally last Thursday, were gathering again since last Sunday (12) night in Dhirkot town in Poonch district, said deputy inspector general of police Shehryar Sikandar.

Dhirkot is about 80 km (50 miles) south of Muzaffarabad, the region’s capital city, which the protesters are threatening to march on if their demands are not met.

“They are in thousands,” Sikandar told Reuters. “We are just monitoring them and have no policy to enter into any kind of direct confrontation.”

Shaukat Nawaz Mir, a leader of the alliance, said the clashes started after the police used force against peaceful protesters.

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