Protesters call off march in Pakistan’s Kashmir after demands met

By Thomson Reuters May 14, 2024 | 1:37 AM

By Tariq Maqbool

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) – An alliance of civil rights group on Tuesday called off a protest march in Pakistan-ruled Kashmir after several days of clashes over high prices in which four people have been killed and over 100 injured, officials said.

Protesters called off the march a day after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif approved a grant of 24 billion rupees ($86 million) to help meet most of their demands, which included subsidies on flour and electricity prices.

The alliance’s head, Shaukat Nawaz Mir, announced the decision in Muzaffarabad, the capital city of the scenic Himalayan region.

“The government has accepted all of our demands,” he said, calling on protesters to return to their homes and businesses.

Mir also demanded the government give financial compensation for the families of three protesters and a police official who were killed in the violence.

The protesters were killed on Monday evening after paramilitary troops opened fire when they were attacked, said local government official Adnan Khurshid. The police official died in clashes over the weekend.

Kashmir’s Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Chaudhry said late on Monday that the funds would help lower some prices in the region.

The subsidised rate for 40 kgs (88.2 lb) of flour will be 2,000 rupees, down from 3,100 rupees, he said. He also announced a substantial dip in the electricity prices.

The protests coincide with the visit of an International Monetary Fund mission to negotiate a new long-term loan with Islamabad.

The IMF has already warned that social tensions triggered by the high cost of living could weigh on policy implementation, adding that fiscal slippages could present a challenge for the government.

(Reporting by Tariq Maqbool in Muzaffarabad; Writing by Asif Shahzad)