Azad Kashmir: Pakistan troops crack down hard on demonstrators

Pakistani flag army soldier

A clash erupted between police and protesters in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir's (PoK) Dadyal amid demonstrations against soaring inflation and power cuts. The skirmish in Mirpur district left multiple injured and prompted Pakistani authorities to impose a curfew on Friday. PoK is also known as Azad Kashmir.

Dozens of protestors expressed outrage over the deployment of FC and Ranger troops in Muzaffarabad and chased away the police. Reports also indicate tear gas shell firings on school students in Mirpur. Denouncing the state brutality, rights activists decried "state-sponsored violence" by Pakistani federal authorities as a tactic to enforce Section 144 and a prelude to quell protests scheduled for May 11 outside the legislative assembly in Muzaffarabad.

United Kashmir People's National Party (UKPNP) condemned the arrests and the imposition of Article 144 in the region illegally occupied by Pakistan. PoK-based UKPNP also strongly condemned the recent arrests of activists including Ali Shamriaz and the imposition of Article 144 in PoK. Rights groups raised concerns about the safety of prisoners who were allegedly subjected to brutal beatings and torture by Pak authorities.

UKPNP leaders including Shaukat Ali Kashmiri and Nasir Aziz Khan expressed dismay at the crackdown on peaceful activists and heavy deployment of security forces. UKPNP leaders demanded the immediate release of all arrested activists and urged the UN and human rights organizations to intervene urgently to address the worsening situation in PoK.

Since the partition of the Indian subcontinent, Kashmir remains a point of contention between Pakistan and India. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), the human rights situation in the illegally occupied region has not received much attention amid continued human rights abuses.

Due to the limited national media presence in PoK, there is less coverage, resulting in no significant documentation available to assess the state of human rights in the region. Last year, PoK experienced severe human rights violations amid widespread protests against the government's decision to withdraw subsidies on wheat flour and increase electricity prices. The crackdown on activists and demonstrators led to arrests, with accusations of torture in custody.

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