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Officer Killed and Scores Wounded in Clashes Amid Protests in Pakistan-held Jammu and Kashmir

Tensions in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) burst into violent protests, resulting in at least one police officer dead and 90 others wounded, according to a report from Dawn on Saturday. The officer, identified as sub-inspector Adnan Qureshi, was shot in the chest during a rally in the town of Islamgarh. His duties, alongside other police personnel, were aimed at halting the progress of a march that was planned to culminate in Muzaffarabad via the Kotli and Poonch districts. This demonstration was under the auspices of the Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC), a group that includes many traders from the region.

The JAAC has been vocal in demanding more accessible electricity at hydropower generation costs for residents of PoJK, the provision of subsidized wheat flour, and an end to the privileges received by the elite classes. The dynamics of the protest changed drastically on Wednesday and Thursday night when approximately 70 JAAC activists were detained in a series of police raids, sparking serious altercations in Dadyal the following day.

In response, JAAC announced a shutter-down and wheel-jam strike for Friday, a precursor to a long march that was proposed for the next day towards the regional capital, Muzaffarabad. On Friday, as the strike took full effect, fierce skirmishes between law enforcement and protestors erupted across multiple areas.

Authorities erected barriers, detaining more individuals to thwart the anticipated march towards Muzaffarabad. Eyewitness reports confirmed that complete strikes were observed in the divisions of Muzaffarabad and Poonch. Police responses included tear gas and aerial firing, which injured one officer and a young boy, as reported by SSP Yasin Baig.

The protests also reached a violent crescendo in the Kotli district where, according to SSP Mir Muhammad Abid, at least 78 policemen suffered injuries from what he described as “attacks of miscreants under the guise of protest.” These events led to 59 policemen, including Deputy Superintendent Ilyas Janjua, being injured in Rehaan Galli. Another contingent, comprising 19 officers, was hurt in Sehnsa Baroiyan.

Kotli’s District Headquarters Hospital received numerous casualties, treating the injured officers and nine wounded protesters. In another clash, police officials sustained injuries in Doliya Jattan.

Hafeez Hamdani, the JAAC spokesperson, outright rejected any connection between the committee’s activities and the violence, instead suggesting that saboteurs had infiltrated the ranks of the protestors with the intention of discrediting the peaceful aim of the demonstrations.

In a bid to lower tensions, PoJK Finance Minister Abdul Majid Khan assured that the government was holding back and willing to engage in dialogue to resolve the issues peacefully. While calling for discussions, Khan emphasized that the government’s invitation to negotiate should not be perceived as a sign of weakness.

Regional President of PML-N Shah Ghulam Qadir described the situation as “inappropriate” and pleaded for all parties involved to strive towards re-establishing peace. He mentioned his communications with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, informing him of the protesters’ demands. He also called on PML-N representatives to facilitate peaceful dialogue with JAAC leaders.

Chaudhry Tariq Farooq, PML-N regional secretary general, urged those in positions of power and responsibility to promptly address the concerns before the situation deteriorates further. Lastly, former PoJK Premier and senior PML-N figure Raja Farooq Haider asked protesters to remain peaceful and to refrain from damaging government property. He too offered his condolences for the deceased sub-inspector, calling for an end to the unrest.

With no editing by DNA staff, this report was sourced from ANI and reflects the ongoing volatile situation in PoJK, where demands for basic amenities have led to widespread unrest and a call for action from local and national leaders.