Budget cuts in Pak-occupied Kashmir is making the situation "alarming", says human rights activist

Pakistan-occupied Kashmir

Human rights activist and chairman of United Kashmir People’s National Party (UKPNP) Shaukat Ali Kashmiri said, when highlighting the plight that the people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) experience, that the Pakistani government has cut PoK development budget by Rs 2.5 billion ($32 million) and the normal budget by Rs 7 billion ($90 million) and termed the situation as “alarming”.

Taking to Twitter, the exiled leader from PoK wrote, “The Pakistan government has cut PoK developmental budget by Rs 2.5 billion and normal budget by Rs 7 billion.”

In another tweet, Kashmiri wrote that earlier the government had agreed to a Rs 49.9 billion ($460 million) total budget for 2021-22. However, as per the latest update, the budget has been cut short by a huge amount, he added.

The PoK authorities lamented that the federal government has even frozen the ‘Line of Control (LoC) Package Fund’.

Kashmiri cautioned that the situation is alarming and should be addressed on a “war footing”.

He noted that, unfortunately, political leaders do keep claiming that the literacy rate in PoK is more than any other province of Pakistan but the truth is different. “We still have the pass-fail system,” he added in the twitter post.

He said that concern has been expressed over pathetic conditions of primary schools at the union council level in PoK where students are “compelled to sit on the ground below open sky with no washrooms, clean drinking water facilities”.

The UKPNP chairman said that apart from this sorry state of affairs, “there is an acute shortage of teachers as well.”

This comes after the government of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) on Monday accused the Shehbaz Sharif-led federal government of slashing the development grant provided to PoK and warned that it could lead to a severe financial system disbalance, if not reviewed.

Speaking at a press conference here, PoK Minister for finance and inland revenue, Abdul Majid Khan alleged that the PoK’s development budget, which is provided by the federal government in totality, stood at Rs 28 billion in the ongoing fiscal year, but the federal finance division had unilaterally slashed it by Rs 5.2 billion, Pakistan newspaper, the Dawn reported.

“During the ongoing fiscal year, the federal government was supposed to provide Rs 49.9 billion to PoK as its 3.64 per cent share in the federal taxes pool (variable grant) but that too had been slashed by Rs 4.4 billion,” the Dawn quoted the Minister as saying.

The 3.64 per cent share from the federal taxes pool which was agreed under a financial arrangement between Islamabad and Muzaffarabad in 2018 is equalled to Rs 74.32 billion in Financial Year 2022-23, but the federal government had recently informed that it would provide only Rs 60 billion,” the Minister said.

“This will create a shortfall of Rs 14 billion in our income which we cannot bridge from any other source,” he added.

Majid Khan asked the federal government to review the development grant and warned that if not reviewed, the government’s decision could affect PoK’s financial system beyond control.