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Three Die As Inflation Protests in AJK Persist Despite Subsidy Package

Despite the announcement of a substantial subsidy package for the people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), protests in the region have persisted, resulting in at least three fatalities during clashes with law enforcement.

The Awami Action Committee (AAC) initiated protests against inflation, particularly high electricity tariffs, which have continued for four days despite assurances from both state and federal governments that all demands of the protesters would be met.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s announcement of a Rs23 billion subsidy package for AJK earlier today was followed by a statement from AJK Premier Chaudhry Anwarul Haq emphasizing that fundamental demands for affordable bread and electricity cannot be overlooked.

In response to the AAC’s demands, the AJK government issued notifications regarding subsidies for power and food commodities, expressing hope that peace would be restored following the implementation of these measures.

Premier Anwar asserted that the government, under the leadership of PM Shehbaz, is fully committed to addressing the issues faced by the people of AJK. He highlighted the government’s tolerance and patience throughout the protests, despite numerous law enforcement personnel sustaining injuries.

The subsidies were described as a demonstration of Pakistan’s special relationship with AJK, with Islamabad pledging Rs23 billion in funds to support the region. Anwar credited the Pakistani establishment and the army chief for their involvement in resolving AJK’s problems.

The notifications regarding subsidies, effective immediately, are considered a permanent arrangement and will be included in the upcoming budget for FY2024-25. Among the measures, the price of flour has been reduced significantly, and electricity tariffs have been revised to accommodate lower-income households.

However, protests have persisted despite these announcements, with clashes between AAC protesters and law enforcement agencies resulting in further casualties. The situation remains tense, with ongoing demonstrations in Muzaffarabad despite the government’s efforts to address the protesters’ demands.

The recent unrest in AJK has included violent clashes between protesters and police, resulting in injuries and fatalities on both sides. The government has taken steps to restore order, including deploying Rangers and AJK police, and temporarily suspending mobile phone and internet services in affected areas.

Prime Minister Shehbaz has emphasized the importance of upholding the rule of law and urged all parties to pursue peaceful means for resolving grievances. Despite the challenges, efforts are underway to facilitate dialogue and reach a resolution to the ongoing crisis.

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