Cop killed, dozens protestors injured as protests against high power bills turn violent

  • Markets, offices and schools remain closed across AJK due to AAC’s strike against inflated  electricity bills

MIRPUR/MUZAFFARABAD: Clashes between the police and Awami Action Committee (AAC) protesters intensified in Muzaffargarh and Mirpur in AJK on second of protest against inflated electricity bills and a policemen was killed and dozens of protestors injured on Saturday.

Markets, trade centres, offices and schools and restaurants remained closed across the AJK due to the AAC’s call for a shutter down and wheel-jam strike across the state to protest the electricity price hike and taxes.

The Awami Action Committee (AAC) had announced a long march from Muzaffarabad to Madina Market.

Heavy contingents of police were deployed on the roads leading to Madina Market to stop the protestors. The protesters infuriated over blockade of roads, clashed with police at Tanga Stand, Aziz Chowk and Shah Sultan Bridge. Protesters pelted stones and thrown glass bottles on policemen during the protest.

Kotli traders also shut down their shops and came to roads for protest.

All trade centres, offices and academic institutions also remained closed in Rawalakot and Mirpur. Protesters also staged demonstration at the district court, demanding release of the arrested protesters.

The routes leading to Muzaffarabad were blocked with barricades at Shahrah-e-Srinagar, while heavy police contingents remained present on the thoroughfare.

The day dawned with large number of participants from Bhimbar, Mirpur and Kotli marched towards Muzaffarabad in groups.

The protests turned violent when police and long march participants clashed near Islam Garh. Police said that the protesters opened fire on them as they tried to block their way, which led to Mirpur Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Adnan Qureshi being shot in the chest.

The cop succumbed to his injuries after being shifted to the hospital, while three protesters were also severely injured.

Meanwhile, several other cops and protesters also got injured during the teargas shelling by the police and stone pelting by the demonstrators in Kotli. The violent protesters damaged multiple vehicles, including a magistrate’s car at the Poonch-Kotli road.

Earlier, clashes were reported from Shah Sultan Bridge, Tanga stand and Aziz Chowk in Muzaffarabad as well.

Police launched a crackdown against the protesters after the events of violence, arresting dozens of individuals in the AJK capital.

On Friday, more than 40 people, including 11 policemen, were injured as a result of stone pelting and clashes.

The AJK government had banned public gatherings, rallies, and processions in all districts in the wake of AAC protests, with Section 144 imposed in the entire region.

‘Food shortage, troubles for tourists’

Due to the shutdown and protests, normal life has come to a standstill in all districts, including the capital Muzaffarabad.

The protest has resulted in road blockades, complete suspension of public and inter-city transport, a significant decline in tourist arrivals, and inconvenience for those returning as they face road closures. Some protesters are guiding returning tourists through alternative routes while others are providing information about the situation.

In this situation, both local residents and tourists are facing extreme difficulties in acquiring basic commodities. Those who have supplies are managing with what they have, as they are unable to find anything elsewhere.

The police have not issued any traffic plans or instructions for tourists. Instead, reports say they have been arresting the representatives of the committee and protesters.

The situation in the region also remained tense on Friday. Clashes were reported between the police and protesters in various areas of Muzaffarabad, with protesters pelting stones at the police, who responded with tear gas shells.

The district administration has imposed a ban on the gathering of more than five people in Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Kotli, Bhambir, Poonch, Haveli, Sidhonti, Neelum, and Jhelum Valley under Section 144 of CrPC for 10 days.

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