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Protests intensify in PoK against Pakistan government's plans to amend Constitution

ANI | Updated: Aug 13, 2022 10:08 IST

Muzaffarabad [PoK], August 13 (ANI): Districts of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) are witnessing massive protests against the Pakistan government's plan to bring in the 15th Constitutional Amendment that will transfer the financial and administrative powers of the local government to Islamabad, local media reported.
The citizens of all 10 districts of the region are infuriated at the government's move. These protests have taken a turn for the worse in Rawalakot, Bagh, Poonch, Muzaffarabad, and Neelum Valley among other areas of PoK.
Recently, Shabir Choudhry, an activist from the region had said that with this move to introduce the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, Pakistan is eyeing to control the region's natural resources and urged the people to raise their voice against this "naked aggression and imperialism" where all is controlled by the Pakistani army and country's property tycoons.
"Pakistan wants to conclude its imperialist and strategic game plan which it started in October 1947. This imperialist agenda began in name of Islam, and the captured prey shall be slaughtered with the 'Islamic touch'," Choudhry said.
He said that Pakistan is using Islam to camouflage its imperialist agenda. Since October 22, 1947, the activist noted that people of PoK are living in the false sense of being independent or liberated.
"Right from childhood, our children through social, educational, economic, and cultural mechanisms are brainwashed or educated on how to be a good slave of Pakistan," he said while slamming Pakistan for manipulating the people of the PoK region. "
According to a local media report, details revealed in the proposed draft of the 15th amendment show that the terms 'State' will be replaced with 'Azad Jammu Kashmir' and the mention of United Nations' is going to be replaced with the words 'subject to recognition' from the so-called 1974 interim constitution of PoJK.
Kashmir Council will be revived which will include six members from the PoJK legislative assembly and seven from Pakistan. It will include the Prime Minister, Defense and Foreign ministers of Pakistan and, will be headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
The Kashmir Council will have the power to collect taxes and present its own budget. Property worth Rs 80 billion in Pakistan which belongs to PoJK will be brought under the Kashmir Property Council and PoJK will have no powers over its sale or to preserve it.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan will have the right to directly appoint the Chief Justice, High and Supreme Court judges as well as the Chief Election Commissioner of PoK, and appointments made by the PM would not be allowed to be challenged in the courts.
All financial powers will be transferred from the government of PoJK to Pakistan thus practically degrading PoJK to the level of a provincial entity.
Last week, the United Kashmir People's National Party (UKPNP) rejected the same saying that instead of fighting for the interests of the ruling elite in the guise of identity and chauvinism, the real salvation of the oppressed people in the region lies in the establishment of a society free of exploitation.
The constitutional status of the region is intended to be fixed once again. Despite several changes, the constitutional status of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and the distribution of powers between the local government could not be satisfied by the different governments and the state of Pakistan.
This will be the 24th attempt of the Pakistan government to determine the constitutional status of the region, in the last 75 years.
A letter by a high-level committee headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan stated that through this amendment, the ongoing functions of the PoK government are to be aligned with the provincial governments of Pakistan. This means that PoK will be treated as federating units (ie other units of the Federation).
Harjap Singh writing for Daily Sikh said that since July 1, women and children have been sitting on roads for several days in the region shouting freedom slogans and demanding the Army return to the barracks.
Citizens have known the agony of living under the thumb of the Pakistani government before the introduction of the 13th amendment. They have been denied dignity in living.

"Many people have been arrested, but their crimes remain unknown. Is it unlawful to ask for basic facilities such as clean drinking water, social opportunities, educational institutions, and healthcare? Underdevelopment and disenfranchisement have taken people to the streets!"
He said that the area of Poonch is experiencing a curfew-like situation and a partial shutdown of internet service in some areas. Roads are closed for all types of vehicles owing to the burning of tyres and Pakistan's mainstream media is forbidden to cover these scenes.
Protests in the Khaigala area of Poonch were quietened through the use of force and indiscriminate open firing. The injured protesters were denied medical attention while a few unfortunates died on spot. Authorities did not disclose the death toll, Harjap wrote.
The Pakistan government, in June 2018, introduced the 13th Amendment that gave PoK the right to control the financial and administrative issues including making laws and collecting tax, excluding corporate tax.
However, the power to elect the superior court judges, chief election Commissioner and emergency provisions remained in the hands of the Prime Minister of the country.
"Pakistan government used to receive Rs 500-600 crores in taxes every year from PoJK before the 13th amendment. After the amendment was implemented, these funds directly went to the PoJK government. Of course, the federal government could not resist curbing PoJK's powers as an independent entity and missing out on the crores of rupees annually," Harjap said adding that the 15th Amendment Bill will usurp the monetary powers from the PoJK government and subsequently turn the PoJK administration into a provincial entity. This is a breach of trust and a clear violation of the rights of the illegally occupied territory.
Not just this, the people of Pakistan have been protesting against the load shedding, increasingly cruel imposition of taxes on electricity bills, imposition of heavy cuts in the budgetary grants of PoK, as well as the locals being ignored for jobs in the area.
Harjap said that major protests have been going on since the night of July 25 when the police started baton-charging and shelling tear gas at the protesters in Poonch, Rawalkot, and Thorar. Political leaders and activists have been detained and taken to undisclosed locations. Baseless cases are registered against them on charges of blocking highways.
Even though the government has convinced the protestors that the arrested persons would be released soon, the basic issues like load shedding, inflation, and the lease of lands need to be addressed on a war footing.
As per the report of the Planning and Development Department of PoJK, fifty per cent of the total population of the region has no access to piped water; 78 per cent of the total households have no tap water connections.
Meanwhile, the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam is a ticking bomb for PoJK, which can swipe all lives in the area. It is because of unlawful occupation of forest cover which has reduced to 14 per cent from 42 per cent.
The electricity produced in PoK relieves the heat in Punjab, while people of the region face load shedding for 18 to 20 hours. The river waters are diverted for hydropower projects built by Chinese companies. And these companies make all the profits which even the Pak federal government has opposed.
For three years in a row, there has been a severe shortage of wheat and a rise in inflation. Ex-servicemen have not seen a single paisa in the name of pension, and government employees have not received salaries during the year.
All those who oppose the government in PoK are labelled as traitors or agents and then put through a series of torture, humiliation, or jail, Harjap wrote.
Among these, the protests against the 15th Amendment and oppressive taxes are spreading like wildfire across the state.
This amendment is a conspiracy to dilute the identity of PoK.
The Poonch division of the Jammu Kashmir National Students Federation (JKNSF) during a protest at Khaigala (Poonch) made a statement - "Though tyrant, audacious, and shameless rulers have crossed all limits of enmity against the people, this oppressive act of the government has increased public awareness and has encouraged the common people to follow the path of continuous struggle for their rights. This spirit can take the form of civil disobedience against the oppression of the government in the coming days." (ANI)