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Kashmir: Pakistani authorities block protesters

October 7, 2019

Pakistani authorities have blocked thousands of protesters who are marching to the border which divides Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. Protesters are demanding an independent Kashmir.

Protests in Kashmir
Image: Getty Images/AFP/A. Ali

Pakistani authorities blocked activists from a separatist group on Monday who are marching to the de facto India-Pakistan border within Kashmir.

Activists from the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) began the march on Friday but are now facing police barricades which are preventing them from reaching the so-called Line of Control (LoC).

In addition, according to an Associated Press report, sniper fire from the Indian side killed a woman outside her home in the border village of Abbaspur on Sunday evening.

The two sides have exchanged crossfire in the past, but this would have come on the same day as US Senators Chris Van Hollen and Maggie Hassan, along with Ambassador Paul Jones, charge d'affairs at the US Embassy in Islamabad, were visiting Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

Read more: Protesters demand UN take over India- and Pakistan-ruled Kashmirs

Protesters reached the LoC, which divides India-controlled Kashmir and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, on Sunday but Pakistani authorities are blocking roads 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the frontier.

Religious group Jamaal-e-Islami were also marching in support of Kashmiris. 

Protests in Kashmir
Supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistani group protest the shutdown in Indian-controlled KashmirImage: Getty Images/AFP/A. Ali

'The line dividing Kashmiris'

"It's a highly militarized area and there are mines everywhere," said Mushtaq Minhas, information minister of Pakistani Kashmir in a statement on Monday, explaining the need to erect barriers.

"We don't want to expose them to the danger," he added. Officials want to meet with protest leaders to convince them to call off the march, Minhas said.

"We want to cross the line dividing Kashmiris but our march has been stopped," protest leader Abdul Hammed Butt said on Monday.

The JKLF are demanding the freedom of Kashmir from both India and Pakistan. They do not recognize the LoC as a legitimate border. 

Read more: Kashmir: Pro-India lawmaker arrested under controversial law

Tensions in Kashmir have ramped up since August 5 when India abruptly changed the semiautonomous nature of India-controlled Kashmir, imposing a media lockdown and a curfew. The move has been met with widespread international criticism. 

Protests in Kashmir
Protests in Kashmir were supported by the Jamaat-e-Islami religious groupImage: Getty Images/AFP/A. Ali

Stalemate situation

On Monday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi repeated his request to the international community to mount up pressure on India to lift the curfew in Kashmir.

He also criticized the Indian government for not allowing Senator Hollen to visit Kashmir, despite Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's claims that everything is business as usual in the territory.

"Why did you stop the American senator from visiting Indian-occupied Kashmir; if life is normal there and if you have nothing to hide?" he asked.

The protesters are still unable to reach the LoC and remain in a stalemate with the Pakistani authorities.

ed/dr (AP, dpa)

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Is press freedom blocked in Kashmir?