The nature of ongoing protests in PoJK/GB

Once again Pakistan occupied Jammu Kashmir (PoJK) and Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan (PoGB) are engulfed in a new wave of protests and sit-ins. Lack of electricity, wheat and water as well as of basic infrastructure plus exploitation of the natural resources in the occupied territories are at the heart of the current protests.

Hundreds of political activists including the chairman of Jammu Kashmir National Awami Party (JKNAP) have been arrested in Poonch and Muzaffarabad in PoJK. The attempt by JKNAP to stage a sit-in at the gates of the Legislative Assembly in Muzaffarabad did not materialize since one night before all main activists and the leadership was apprehended by the police.

In PoGB, at least two sit-ins are currently being staged in Gilgit city and in Nasirabad in Hunza that are worth a mention.

In 2008, 14 political activists who belonged to Shia sect of Islam were arrested and sent for trail to Rawalpindi in Pakistan.

For 15 years they have been languishing in prison and one has already died of ‘natural’ causes.

The 13 remaining political prisoners have been accused of participating in a protest back in 2005 during which at least five protesters and two members of the paramilitary rangers lost their lives. There has been no trial for 15 years to prove that the accused were involved in the killing of the ranger personnel.

The sit-in is being observed under a scorching sun and is being braved by young women and elderly mothers in the open in Gilgit city who demand that they will not leave until their loved ones are released.

The second sit-in is taking place in Nasirabad in Hunza. The protesters are disputing a mining lease issued to a non-local investor by the name of Mohmand Dada.

Up until 2014, the mining rights for the marble stone in the area were under the collective ownership of the Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society that represents the village where the mine is located.

The villagers say that the lease was transferred to Dada after the agreement with the Cooperative Society was tampered with. The lively hood of around 10,000 locals depends on mining.

On July 4 and 5, spontaneous anti-load shedding rioting broke out in almost every town and city of PoJK. On July 6, sporadic riots and clashes between police and activists of Jammu Kashmir National Students Federation were reported. A young man was kidnapped by the police and handed over to the secret services for confronting a Pakistan military officer of Brigadier rank who was allegedly involved in land grab.

All of the above is only but a glimpse of a wider and deeper discontent imbedded in the political psychology of the people of both PoJK and PoGB. This is not the first time that both occupied territories find themselves engulfed in such protests, and this will not be the last. The problem, however, is that this time around, as during previous periods, the protests lacks political leadership and direction.

Unless the root cause of the political, cultural, economic and social exploitation is addressed there can hardly be a protest or a sit-in that will remain sustainable and bear fruit.

The hegemony of Pakistan’s cultural and political narrative is the first and the biggest obstacle in the way of breaking free from the so-called Islamic, two-nation theory based indoctrination that our people have been subjugated to for the past 75 years.

A significant number of people living in PoJK and PoGB hate what Pakistan is doing to them but unless a counter Pakistani narrative is introduced into the movement, people will not be able to cut off the umbilical cord that connects them with the ideology of Pakistan and feeds them with the poison of jihadi Islam.

For that to cease we must patiently, persistently and consistently explain to the people of PoJK and PoGB that it was Pakistan that attacked the independent state of Jammu and Kashmir and that our relation with Pakistan is not of two equals but that of the coloniser and the colonised.

Secondly, we have to make the people living in the occupied territories realise that the instrument of accession signed between the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh, and the last governor general of India, Lord Mountbatten, not only binds us with India but more importantly makes us citizens of the Republic of India.

Unless the nature of the ongoing protests are turned into rebellions against the occupation of Pakistan and into a conscious political endeavor to reunite with Union Territory of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh, the new wave of protests and upheaval in PoJK and PoGB will share the same fate as its predecessors; they will be brutally crushed leading to loss of hope among the subjugated population, until another time when a new wave of unrest overwhelms the region only to repeat the fate of its predecessor movements.

This vicious cycle of hope and despair can only be transformed into a revolutionary break through by transforming the protests into political rebellions against the colonial subjugation of Pakistan and a clear political program to reunite with India.

( is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoJK. He currently lives in exile in the UK)

20220707-123022

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