Long march heads for Muzaffarabad as wheel-jam strike enters fourth day

World Monday 13/May/2024 08:41 AM
Long march heads for Muzaffarabad as wheel-jam strike enters fourth day

Muzaffarabad: Amid a wheel-jam strike continuing for the fourth consecutive day in Pakistan administered Jammu and Kashmir , a long march led by the Awami Action Committee (AAC) set off for the  capital, Muzaffarabad, as reported by Geo News on Monday.

Protesters have already started sit-ins, effectively shutting down the Kohala-Muzaffarabad Road at various points along its 40-kilometer stretch, which connects Kohala town with Muzaffarabad. Their route from Dhirkot is expected to lead them to the capital.

The PoJK government deployed Rangers and police following clashes between law enforcement and demonstrators in Mirpur. These clashes resulted in the unfortunate death of a police officer and left over 70 others injured.

Heavy police contingents have been deployed at key points and sensitive areas, while markets, trade centers, and educational institutions remain shuttered, and transportation services remain suspended.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has called for a high-level meeting on Monday to address the ongoing situation in PoJK, as negotiations between protesters and the state government reached an impasse.

Expressing grave concerns over the violent clashes, PM Shehbaz emphasized zero tolerance for vigilantism, stressing the importance of upholding the rule of law.

He spoke about having discussion with PoJK Prime Minister Chaudhry Anwarul Haq and directed all Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) office bearers in PoJK to engage with the action committee leaders.

"I urge all parties to pursue peaceful means for resolving their demands. Despite the efforts of detractors, I'm hopeful the matter will be resolved soon," the Prime Minister said.

In an effort to de-escalate tensions, President Asif Ali Zardari urged all stakeholders to exercise restraint and resolve issues through dialogue and mutual consultation.

Highlighting the need for responsible action, President Zardari said that addressing the demands of the people of PoJK within the framework of the law was imperative. He assured to discuss PoJK's grievances with PM Shehbaz to seek a resolution.

Expressing regret over the situation, the President offered condolences for the police officer's death and prayed for the swift recovery of those injured in recent clashes.

The AAC's central leadership has however distanced itself from the violent incidents during the protests. An AAC member, Sajid Jagwal, said that for two days, they had conducted themselves peacefully without incident.

Tauseef Mansoor, another member, said that the committee bore no responsibility for the isolated incidents during the protests.

Anjuman Tajran President Sahabzada Waqas clarified that the protest was not against the state or any institution. He reaffirmed their allegiance to the nation and its institutions.

The AAC had called for a shutter-down and wheel-jam strike across the state as a mark of their protest against electricity price hikes and taxes. However, the situation escalated as clashes broke out between protesters and police.

During the clashes, a sub-inspector lost his life. Several policemen and protesters also sustained injuries following tear gas shelling and stone-pelting incidents.

The protesters' actions also led to the vandalism of multiple vehicles, including a magistrate's car, along the Poonch-Kotli road. Additionally, markets, trade centers, offices, schools, and restaurants remained closed across PoJK.

In response to the violence, police launched a massive crackdown and arrested dozens of individuals in the PoJK capital.

Telecommunication and internet services were also suspended in various parts of PoJK, including Bhimber and Bagh Towns. In Mirpur, all mobile networks and internet services remained suspended.