People in the Mirpur city of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) are protesting the Pakistan government’s move to set up quarantine centres to bring coronavirus positive patients in their region. They have alleged that Pakistan is planning to shift hundreds of such patients to PoK from other parts of the country in a bid to seek international aid.
Locals are resisting the move by the Pakistani Army to bring in patients from states like Punjab, as they feel the Army is scared that these patients may spread infection among the troops. Local leaders are talking to PoK officials to dissuade them from bringing the affected people in their region for fear that coronavirus cases could spike in PoK. They say that these centres will also hold patients from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Europe-based Kashmiri activist Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, who is the chairman of the United Kashmir People's National Party (UKPNP), told a news agency: “It's heartening to note that the people of Mirpur are aware and resisting. Pakistani security personnel forced locals to evacuate their properties and the Mohi-Ud-Din teaching Hospital to convert these into quarantine centres.”
People allege that there is an increase in the number of coronavirus patients in Pakistan and occupied areas Gilgit Baltistan (GB) as the Pakistan government was slow to realize the enormity of the problem. They allege that the situation is serious in GB where a large number of Chinese are engaged in building the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.
The Europe-based activist said that Pakistan’s decision to shift coronavirus positive people to PoK is a deliberate ploy to spread coronavirus in the occupied region. Kashmiri added that since the time of independence Pakistan has not built hospitals or labs in PoK as it was an occupation region. He added that the people of PoK have to take their patients to the Punjab province for treatment as PoK does not event have basic medical facilities and trained staff.
The locals have a genuine fear. The number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan crossed 1,600 by Saturday afternoon with 28 deaths and many critical cases. Punjab province has become the epicentre for the virus with over 500 cases while POK reported just two. These are the data that are leading to protests among the local people.
Anti-Pakistan protests by Kashmiris are not uncommon. The state has been marginalized and people are discriminated against. Kashmiris recently protested against Islamabad to give it the status of a state, so that they can hold elections and choose a democratically elected government just like in the rest of the country. They also want Pakistan to withdraw its troops from PoK and restore democracy in the region. The protests resulted in clashes with the police and many were injured. The locals are also angry that the economy of their region is in the hands of Islamabad while the people here live in poverty.
In September 2019, people again took to the streets to protest against economic exploitation of the region. Locals in the Ghanche district of PoK blocked roads against a decision by Islamabad to lease GB land to China for mining. Member of the Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly Mirza Hussain alleged that 300 mining leases were awarded to China in the mineral-rich region. It is believed that Chinese companies control the region's plentiful mineral deposits of uranium, gold, copper, marble and precious stones..