President against toppling AJK govt

Zardari rejects a proposal to initiate an in-house change in AJK Assembly

ISLAMABAD   -   President Asif Ali Zardari is against toppling the Azad Jammu Kashmir government after weeks of crisis and federal government’s announcement of a massive relief package. Zardari, the PPP supremo, decisively rejected a proposal to initiate an in-house change in the AJK Assembly. The PPP-AJK had prepared a motion to oust AJK Prime Minister Chaudhry Anwarul Haq. Zardari, in a meeting with the PPP leaders from AJK, declined the proposal citing the inappropriateness of such a move under the current circumstances. PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is also not in favour of removing the AJK PM through a no-confidence motion for the moment. The PPP leadership emphasized that instigating an in-house change in AJK will be ill-timed, instructing the local chapter to support the existing government instead.

This decision came amid a tense atmosphere in AJK, where the Joint Action Committee (JAC) had recently called off its protest after the federal government announced a historic relief package worth Rs 23 billion. This package included significant subsidies on flour and electricity, providing much-needed economic relief to the region’s residents. The relief package, facilitated by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, reduced the price of flour from Rs 3100 to Rs 2000 per 40 kilograms and lowered electricity tariffs significantly. Domestic electricity rates were slashed to Rs 3 per unit for the first 100 units, Rs 5 per unit for 100-300 units, and Rs 6 per unit for consumption above 300 units. Commercial rates were also adjusted, offering substantial economic respite to businesses.

Despite these measures, tensions had escalated in the region, leading to violent clashes between protesters and police in Muzaffarabad. The unrest was sparked by the killing of three young men by paramilitary forces, prompting the JAC to call for a shutdown and declare a “black day.”

The protests, initiated by the JAC over demands for subsidized flour and electricity, had seen widespread participation and had marched towards the capital since May 11.

The federal government’s intervention with the relief package initially seemed to quell the protests, with JAC chairman Shaukat Nawaz Mir expressing intentions to celebrate the government’s responsiveness. However, the situation took a tragic turn with the violent crackdown, causing the JAC to redirect their protest towards seeking justice for the deceased. Prime Minister Sharif, acknowledging the gravity of the situation, expressed deep concern and called for restraint and peaceful resolution. He reiterated the importance of democratic debate and peaceful protests but condemned any form of lawlessness and property damage. His sentiments were echoed by President Asif Ali Zardari, who urged all stakeholders to resolve their issues through dialogue to prevent exploitation by hostile elements.

This backdrop of political and social turbulence highlighted the delicate balance of governance in AJK. While the federal government’s relief package addressed some immediate economic grievances, the underlying tensions and demands for systemic reforms remain potent. The PPP’s decision to refrain from pushing for an in-house change reflects a strategic choice to maintain stability and support the current government, at least for now, in hopes of fostering a collaborative approach to resolving the ongoing crisis. The opposition Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf meanwhile is demanding AJK PM’s resignation calling him a ‘puppet’ who failed to deliver.

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