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Rajnath Singh advises Pakistan over PoK as Kashmiris flee territory

Libyan aid workers retrieve bodies of migrants from the sea earlier this year (Photo: Migrant Rescue Watch/Twitter)

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday hit back at Pakistan criticising it over creating an unnecessary din on Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). He advised Pakistan to manage its own problems, saying that India did not need to do much to take back Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Speaking at a national security conclave in Jammu, Singh said that a day will come when the distressed people in PoK will mount pressure to leave Pakistan and join India. The Defence Minister said: “A large part of J&K is under the occupation of Pakistan. People on the other side are noticing that people are living their lives peacefully in J&K. People living in POK are going through a lot of suffering and they will raise the demand to go with India,” Singh said.

Singh’s comments come at a time when Pakistan is going through one of its most painful moments politically, financially and militarily. Radical parties are becoming all-powerful, blasphemy-related killings are going up, governance is in shambles, inflation is going up, food shortages are increasing and the country’s terror groups, once called “strategic assets” are now attacking its mentor.

Over the past many months, the locals in Pakistan-held-Kashmir have organised protests against Islamabad over its land policies, shortage of wheat flour, little employment opportunities as well as lack of democratic representation owing to the military’s stranglehold over PoK.

It is almost everyday that protests against the Pakistani Army and the government are held in PoK. For the last ten days the anger has been fuelled by the migrant boat tragedy in Europe in which PoK losts scores of people after a ramshackle Libyan trawler overturned near Greece.

Of the nearly 750 migrants – 400 Pakistani, 200 Egyptian and 150 Syrians – more than 600 people perished, of which nearly 300 are estimated to be from Pakistan. Most of the migrants were from PoK, illegally migrating from their miserable homeland for livelihoods and a better life in Europe.

The migrant boat accident has not only put the spotlight on PoK but also highlighted the hypocrisy of Pakistan regarding its treatment of the people in Kashmir.

Over decades, successive Pakistani governments have threatened to annex Kashmir from India, sometimes making it the only point of diplomacy with other countries and international bodies. Besides diplomacy, Pakistan has created a vast infrastructure of terror pushing heavily trained terrorists into Kashmir to target Hindus and ignite communal violence.

However, Pakistan’s policies in PoK, which it attacked and snatched from the Maharaja of J&K in October 1947 has only pushed the region into poverty, under-development and misery forcing people to migrate. In stark comparison, the Indian side of Kashmir ranks high on the development indices due to educational institutions, development of industries, promotion of tourism and integration with India.

A large number of organisations are showing Pakistan the lack of progress and poor conditions of life that Kashmiris live in. Last week, organisations including Nakyal Action Committee, Samaj Badlo Tahreek and Jammu Kashmir Awami Workers Party (JKAWP) held protests at the Padawa Chowk in Nakyal demanding compensation for the dead in the migrant boat disaster.

The protestors also highlighted lack of basic services like power cuts, shortage of flour and poor conditions of roads. The people also raised demands for better healthcare and medication, resolving water-related issues, improving the mobile network and addressing the pressing issue of unemployment. The demand also included granting regional autonomy.

This was the fourth ship wreck this year in which young Pakistanis lost their lives trying to flee economic hardships, rising inflation, food shortages, lack of jobs and rising violence across the nation. The latest tragedy highlighted the desperation of the Kashmiris in Pakistan on whose behalf Islamabad has raised the bogey of human rights in Kashmir.