Despite rich in water resources, half Kashmir population has no access to potable water. By Farooq Ganderbali

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Despite Pakistan Occupied Kashmir being rich in water resources, roughly half the population in the region still do not have access to potable water as water sources have all but dried up in some areas. The reason being Islamabad exploiting the water resources of POK for the benefit of Punjabi Generals, feudal lords and politicians.

A highly controversial hydropower project in POK, because of its ecological implications, is the Diamer Bhasha Dam. It will inundate large tracts of land in the vicinity, rendering thousands of people homeless. According to a report, at least 31 villages will be flooded, 3,115 houses destroyed, and 1,500 acres of agricultural land inundated by the reservoir.

The area has very little in terms of fertile agricultural land, which if absorbed by the construction of the dam could result in serious food deficit in the region. POK has been facing food shortage in the past. Also, the dam is located in a seismically sensitive zone.

Political unrest in POK is based on a range of issues, primarily being the denial of basic rights, constitutional and political. People from POK have migrated to countries like US, Canada and gulf looking for greener pastures as education and job opportunities are not available and political freedom is non-existent.

There is also a sectarian divide as a result of Sunni ingress in the region. The region has also been linguistically and culturally marginalized. POK does not have a provincial status even though Pakistan has controlled it for nearly six decades. Ironically, POK does not count as a province of Pakistan.

Reports such as the Human Rights Violation in POK and Baroness Emma Nicholson’s Kashmir Report for the EU depict a distressing picture of the state of human rights in POK. The Human Rights Watch Report opens with a statement from a resident of Muzaffarabad: “Pakistan says they are our friends and India is our enemy. I agree India is our enemy, but with friends like these, who needs enemies?”

Pakistan’s approach to POK has baffled many as this area is of immense strategic significance. Some have alleged that Pakistan has refrained from granting it legislative autonomy because of this strategic significance, fearing consequences. The establishment has brutally crushed political unrest in POK in the past. None the less, this movement could acquire a violent shape due to continuing impoverishment and lack of hope for betterment. Resort to violence is ingrained in the Pakistani state and society since long. Most of the drivers in isolation or in combination could be critical in the course of the next two decades in POK.

 

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