Opinion | PoK is Witnessing Worst Violence Ever, But Silence of International Community is Nauseating – News18

Protesters burn tyres demanding lesser taxes and subsidies in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. (File image: X/@KASHMICO)

Protesters burn tyres demanding lesser taxes and subsidies in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. (File image: X/@KASHMICO)

The situation in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir has deteriorated seriously, but the international community is living in a state of denial

It has been almost four days now that the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) region is witnessing its most violent protests ever in history. The simmering anger among people over the lack of food, electricity, and economic well-being has reached such a dangerous proportion that they are outrightly targeting personnel from law enforcement agencies with stones and sticks.

Pakistani rangers, the force deployed to keep peace in the region, have even retaliated with open firing leading to the death of around four civilians. Protests in PoK have become a regular affair in the last few years, due to Pakistan’s discriminatory behaviour towards the region and its own economic downfall. But these protests are characteristically violent with visuals circulating on social media taking everyone by surprise.

The Pakistani state in the worst form of fascist behaviour has completely blocked cellular and Internet services in the area which means the situation on the ground is very tense and civilians are being targeted but the truth is not allowed to reach the outside world. The protests are being spearheaded by a Joint Awami Action Committee. This committee consists mostly of small-time traders whose grievances include militarisation and discrimination with PoK along with inflation, lack of employment, end of subsidies on food, draconian taxes, and lack of electricity. In fact, power remains one of the most pressing issues in the region with people claiming that the rich get a 24-hour supply while the poor receive only four hours of electricity.

Even the allegations of discrimination against PoK by the Pakistani state are true. The locals allege that more than 20 per cent of the electricity generated in Pakistan is produced in PoK and yet it receives only 30 per cent of its needs because the maximum share is grabbed by Punjab province. Then there is the issue of lack of basic infrastructure. Just last month, a lawyers’ group from Jamaat-e-Islami held a protest against Pakistan for the lack of critical infrastructure in PoK. Things as fundamental as tunnels are missing, leading to the loss of lives in multiple accidents every week. Even the connectivity between PoK and the rest of Pakistan remains poor.

On one hand, civilians are desperate for some attention from the state but on the other hand, Pakistan is busy militarising the PoK region for its own benefit. The telecom infrastructure in the region has been specially attuned to boost infiltration into Indian Kashmir with a former ISI officer leading the project. This is in complete violation of the international laws as mandated under the International Telecommunication Union’s constitution.

PoK’s situation is today worse than any other occupied region in the world with China exploiting its geographic location by aiding Pakistan in militarising it. After a forced demographic change that involved settling outside people in PoK, now Chinese enclaves are on the rise.

As per reports, more than 36,000 Chinese military personnel are present in the region tasked with securing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. For both China and Pakistan, PoK is nothing more than a piece of land from which they can execute their strategy to target India. Even the people are nothing more than cannon fodder for their nefarious designs.

While the entire Pakistan is today resembling a failed state, PoK’s situation is even worse than the rest of Pakistan. People are forced to sell their children for a few meals, wheat flour has become an extinct commodity, and extreme hunger is the only reality. A place that in the late 1980s and 1990s was buzzing with cries of freeing the entire Kashmir by waging jihad against India has today become worse than Somalia. The same people who once fantasised about taking Kashmir and reaching all the way to Delhi to capture Red Fort are today at a loss of even decent food.

In this grave moment of crisis, Indians are watching the events unfold in PoK with great interest, especially when 38 per cent of people showed up to vote in Jammu & Kashmir for the 2024 Lok Sabha Polls on May 14, 2024. This marked the highest voter turnout in the last 35 years.

While the contrasting picture in PoK and J&K is worth noticing, the entire international community has failed to ponder over it. This is an old story that hasn’t changed even in recent years. The West and other actors have always used Kashmir as a card to bully India. During the Cold War, it was often used as a plank to deter India but the trend continues even today. Just recently when the Ukraine-Russia war broke out and India continued to pursue its own interests, the Kashmir card was used by the West to shame India into submission.

However, India called out their designs. In fact, the West is not alone in this; the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is also a forum where regular India-bashing is undertaken by referring to the human rights and rights of self-determination of people in J&K. However, today when the Pakistani forces are openly firing at innocent civilians and they are desperately crying for help, neither the OIC nor the West has raised its voice even once.

Also, the so-called academics and journalists who have monetarily milked the conflict industry in J&K are today completely silent over the human rights violation in PoK. Shockingly, the coverage of PoK protests is completely missing from the international press. The Indian media has done a fantastic job in relentlessly bringing the ground story but the Western press is living in absolute denial as if PoK doesn’t even exist on the face of the earth. The usual human rights lobby in the West which organises seminars on university campuses on ‘Free Kashmir’ has become deaf, mute, and blind on this. It reaffirms India’s stand that these lobbies and even the academics who use wrong terms such as “India-occupied Kashmir” are nothing but propagandists-cum-foot-soldiers of ISI.

The situation in PoK has deteriorated seriously, but the international community is living in a state of denial which is tragic, unfortunate, shameful, and nauseating.

The author is a New Delhi-based commentator on geopolitics and foreign policy. She holds a PhD from the Department of International Relations, South Asian University. You may follow her on X: @TrulyMonica. The views expressed in the above piece are personal and solely those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect News18’s views.