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PM Shehbaz approves immediate provision of Rs23bn to AJK

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday approved the immediate provision of Rs23 billion to Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) after the region witnessed clashes and protests in the past few days.

The Jammu Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC), which has traders at the forefront in most parts of the state, has been seeking the provision of electricity as per hydropower generation cost in AJK, subsidised wheat flour and an end to the privileges of the elite class.

On May 9 and 10, around 70 activists were arrested by police in a bid to prevent a long march — announced by the JAAC to press the government to comply with an agreement reached between the two in February this year — triggering serious clashes in Dadyal and a “shutter-down strike” call.

Amid a crippling strike on Friday, fierce clashes between police and protesters were witnessed in different areas of Muzaffarabad.

The next day, AJK witnessed violent clashes between the police and the activists amid a wheel-jam and shutter-down strike across the territory, leaving at least one police official dead and more than 90 others injured.

On Sunday, as a possible agreement between the JAAC and the AJK government had remained elusive, the situation initially remained calm but the protest movement resumed its march on Muzaffarabad.

The movement announced its march on the state capital after the talks between the JAAC core committee and AJK Chief Secretary Dawood Bareach in Rawalakot ended in a stalemate, prompting a protest leader from Rawalakot to accuse the government of resorting to evasive tactics.

Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari and PM Shehbaz had vowed to address the “genuine demands” of protesters, urging all stakeholders to exercise restraint and resolve the issues through dialogue.

In light of the protests, government offices and educational institutions were to remain closed today.

Prime Minister Sharif chaired a special meeting today in Islamabad, which was attended by AJK PM Chaudhry Anwarul Haq, local ministers and top political leadership, the PM’s Office (PMO) said in a statement.

Federal ministers and leaders of the coalition parties also took part in the meeting, where a detailed review of the situation was taken, it added.

AJK leaders and all participants appreciated PM Shehbaz for his decision, the PMO said.

Later, the AJK premier said that the amount would help extend a subsidy to the region.

The subsidised rate for 40 kilogrammes of flour will be Rs2,000, down from Rs3,100 rupees, he said at a press conference.

He also announced a substantial dip in the electricity prices as well.

This was a permanent arrangement, he said.

A notification from the AJK Energy and Water Resources Department said the AJK president approved the following tariffs for domestic and commercial users:

  • 1-100 units: Rs3 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for domestic users
  • 100-300 units: Rs5/kWh for domestic users
  • 1-300 units: Rs10/kWh for commercial users
  • 300+ units: Rs6/kWh for domestic users, Rs15/kWh for commercial users