The attention span in our little corner in this global village oscillated between Muzaffarabad at home and Manchester in the UK, all throughout the previous 24 hours.
The diary entry for Day 167 of 2019 became a casualty in the process, though it needn't have.
Let's begin with the less serious of the 2 venues:
Old Trafford cricket ground in Manchester captured much attention of our co-citizens throughout the day. Certainly as long as the Pakistani cricket team still had a remote outside chance of beating their Indian counterparts.
As I've intimated on this blog and elsewhere in the past, Pakistani cricket is an apt metaphor for how the Pakistani State and society in general approach life. Most of the world has moved on with the times but Pakistan - almost insistently but perhaps more through habit - lags behind in most fields of life.
The importance of merit, transparency, discipline and responsibility are still mentally driven away by the Pakistani mind as 'foreign/enemy agents'. This puts us in AJK and GB in an unenviable dilemma. We want to keep pace with the world and adopt the quality of approach visible elsewhere but the Pakistani State is adamant on dragging us down with it.
The following issue is a prime example of how we suffer at their hands. They want us to tirelessly advocate the freedom of the Kashmir Valley (for assumed propaganda brownie points against India) while ignoring our own right to freedom.
As opposed to Manchester, more pertinent to our future was what happened in the early hours of yesterday in Muzaffarabad. The peaceful sit-in protest at Azaadi Chowk (Freedom Square) to save our rivers had barely entered its 84th day, when the local police pounced on the 2 activists on duty, at about 0230hrs yesterday morning (Sunday 16/06/19), before taking them and all the camp equipment into custody.
Later, as news spread throughout the morning to all corners of the globe where our diaspora reside, many of the local activists committed to save their environment and part of the 'Save Rivers - Save Muzaffarabad' Movement converged on Azaadi Chowk to protest their outrage. At about 1000hrs (10am) a further 21 members of the movement were arrested.
Here is a list of the 23 detainees:
1) Raja Amjad Ali Khan Advocate (Movement Spokesman)
2) Shaukat Nawaz Mir (President of Trader's Association - Muzaffarabad)
3) Mir Afzaal Suleria
4) Raja Umar
5) Imran Pandit
6) Zulfiqar Baig
7) Gohar Kashmiri
8) Raja Farrukh Mumtaz
9) Chaudhary Murad
10) Aamir Yusuf Zargar
11) Zain Kokher
12) Zulqarnain Jaafri
13) Mirza Akhter
14) Waqar Hussain Kazmi Advocate
15) Noor Hussain
16) Raja Saeed
17) Shahid Awan
18) Zaheer Mir
19) Basit Qureshi
20) Kamran Baig Advocate
21) Mustafa Nazir
22) Daaniyaal Chishti
23) Suhail Mughal
The detainees almost proportionately represent the different clans, tribes, sects, schools of thought, political parties and other diversities existing in the Muzaffarabad region. Not to forget that women have also acted in solidarity with their male brethren. This aspect along with their consistent line in respect to their simple demands and mobilisation of the AJK diaspora have given this movement a certain potency, arguably hitherto absent in public protests throughout AJK.
Meanwhile, a multitude of protests throughout the city of Muzaffarabad ensued throughout the day. Here's an example:
The timing of this 'crackdown' is interesting because a scheduled protest in London for the 18th of June had already been announced when the sit-in protest in Azaadi Chowk, Muzaffarabad began on the 25th of March. The powers-that-be are always confident of diluting public interest here but are traditionally fearful of protests abroad:
Let me remind you of the simple demands of the 'Save Rivers - Save Muzaffarabad' Movement:
1) - (Alternative) Water bodies to be made (to mitigate effects of River Neelam diversion) between Nausehri and Chattar Klas.
2) - Sewerage treatment plants to be constructed at 16 points along the River Neelam, along with associated infrastructure in full.
3) - A water supply scheme should be initiated between Nausehri and Muzaffarabad.
4) - A solid waste management project should be initiated to recycle garbage.
5) - Both banks of the River Neelam should be cleaned and plantation erected there.
6) - Genuine participation of the people of AJK in electricity projects (here) should be realised.
Instead of fulfilling these demands, the Pakistani State - through its proxies including WAPDA (Pakistan's federal Water and Power Development Authority) and the AJK Government - is digging deeper problems for itself by trying to crush genuine dissent rather than face responsibility for its deeds. Charging into a territory under the guise of development without legal and constitutional authority, as if humans do not even exist there is an approach our Western neighbour will have to answer for.
Sardar Shamim and I spent about 10 of these 84 days at Azaadi Chowk last month. I have gathered much technical details about the motives behind why the Pakistani State is adamant on destroying our environment for the sake of (relatively expensive) power generation for itself and without agreement with us; the stakeholders of this territory. I should've published this comprehensive report sooner but will do so in due course as soon as possible.
The heat coupled with Ramadhan stalled me somewhat but I am not offering that as an excuse.
Meanwhile, the AJK PM Raja Farooq Haider has denied instructing the police to uproot the camp at Azaadi Chowk. He claims Pakistan's lent officer in chief in AJK (Chief Secretary) gave the orders without his knowledge.
Here at Gilani Chowk, Raja Amjad Ali Khan (Spokesman for 'Save Rivers - Save Muzaffarabad' movement) urges the PM - in no uncertain terms - to either stand up for his right to govern as 'chief executive' or resign from office forthwith:
Returning to the cricket world cup on a very hopeful note: