Huge anti-Pakistan protests have broken out in at least two places in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) over a rise in the activities of Islamabad-backed terrorist outfits in the region. The protestors have accused the Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment of sabotaging their struggle for Kashmiri independence.
The protests happened in in Rawalakot and Tararkhel, both of which lie close to the Line of Control (LoC) in the Poonch district of PoK, which Pakistan refers to Azad Kashmir.
The local anger comes after months of increased terrorist infiltration activity along the LoC with the guidance and assistance of the Pakistani military. Other factors driving the protests include poor infrastructure, the failure to hold elections and the lack of governance and funds, reported news agency ANI.
"We have loudly said that the non-state actors, who are being smuggled to Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan's secret agencies, have sabotaged our struggle. The world is now seeing it as an act of terrorism. Nobody is listening to us" said Sardar Jagir Khan, senior leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF).
When international community put pressure on Pakistan to eliminate Lashkar-e-Taiba, they activated Jaish-e-Mohammed led by Maulana Masood Azhar. Now, JeM is getting promoted in PoK," Khan added.
The local anger is over the continued shelter, training and arming of terrorist groups by the Pakistani military establishment.
The locals also objected to what they perceived as decades of misrule, discrimination and oppression by Islamabad. Some demanded the construction of roads and hospitals in the region.
"After this protest, if our demands are not met then it will be an insult to the youth. Police will harass you. Politicians will harass you and state administration will harass you. If you want to avoid these atrocities, if you want your children to get educated, if you want hospitals then join us and walk with us," said a protestor in Tararkhel in an impassioned appeal to his audience.
"Elections are not being held in any constituency. There is no recruitment, no counsellor, no road construction, no school. Then which government do they talk about?" asked another protestor.
The administration of the various parts of PoK has been a contentious local issue. Islamabad long stands accused to running puppet governments through appointed bureaucrats. PoK is the region of the erstwhile Kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir that Pakistan invaded soon after Independence with the help of tribal militia from the Pakhtunkhwa region.
From the ceasefire that followed, Pakistan has occupied the western part of Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan and some of the other smaller princely states like Hunza and Nagar that had existed at the time.
While India has maintained the administrative status quo in the region by administering the Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh regions as a single state, Pakistan flouted the status quo and split off the occupied territory into Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Northern Areas in 1970. Northern Areas was redesignated as Gilgit-Baltistan in 2009 and given limited autonomy, with which locals have been unhappy.