NO RESPITE FOR POK, GILGIT-BALTISTAN RESIDENTS WHO LIVE UNDER PAKISTAN’S OCCUPATION

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A budget totaling Rs 2.32 trillion was unanimously adopted by the PoK legislative assembly in Muzaffarabad on June 21. A budget totaling 1.16 trillion Pakistani Rupees (Rs) was adopted by the legislative body of Gilgit-Baltistan on June 26. Author and human rights advocate Dr. Amjad Ayub Mirza hails from Mirpur in PoJK. In exile now, he resides in the UK.

None of them deal with the pressing issues of joblessness, skill development, or opening up work prospects in PoK-GB. No significant funding is provided in any of the budgets for initiatives aimed at empowering women.

No budget has taken the time to thoughtfully address the issue of salary or pension increases. The opposition and, for that matter, not a single member of the house did not even object to the budget that the PoK assembly enacted. In contrast to a demand for a 100% increase, only a 35% pay rise and a 17.5% pension increase were authorised against an inflation rate of about 48% that was rising.

42 billion rupees were made aside for development money. But astonishingly, 1.19 trillion rupees—or out of a total of 2.32 trillion rupees—have been issued as non-development monies. A budget of Rs 44 billion has been set up for education, which will be used to cover costs such as salaries, electricity, fuel for government vehicles, and other expenses. 811 school buildings that sustained structural damage during the October 2005 earthquake are currently waiting for renovation or complete reconstruction in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Children have been required to attend school outside for the past 18 years because to a lack of funding, just like in prior budgets.

Therefore, out of the entire Rs 44 billion set aside for education, Rs 40 billion will go towards covering employee salaries and other costs, and not a single rupee would be spent on developing curricula, helping students with special needs, or offering coaching to those who have learning challenges. 52 million rupees have been put aside for business and commerce, ready for the corrupt administration and middlemen to steal.

Rs 40 million have been set aside for culture and sports, which will be used for anti-India events like the Kashmir Solidarity Day, which is celebrated annually on February 5, Defence Day, which is observed on September 6, the celebrations of the so-called Independence (read: Partition) Day on August 14, and religious celebrations to perpetuate the false narrative of Jinnah’s two-nation theory, among others. The salaries of people employed in PoK’s health sector as well as the procurement of medications would each receive Rs 17.52 billion. Even a paracetamol tablet needs to be acquired by the patient from a pharmacy outside the hospital because medicine has long been unavailable at government hospitals.

Any money that is left over after paying the wages will be used to cover energy bills, fictitious invoices for billions of dollars’ worth of fuel, and repair costs for ambulances and other health department-owned vehicles. The PoGB parliamentary assembly’s presentation of the budget takes the same approach to development, health, and education.

Out of a total budget of Rs. 1.16 trillion for the fiscal year 2023–24, a deficit of Rs. 50 billion has already been established, which the PoGB administration ‘hopes’ to receive as a grant from Pakistan, which is itself experiencing serious economic difficulties.

28 billion rupees have been set out in the current budget for development. The astonishing Rs 74 billion that has been put aside for non-development costs is in contrast. The government would keep the lion’s share, or Rs. 1.02 trillion, of the entire amount of Rs. If Pakistan grants a grant of Rs. 50 billion, just Rs. 14 billion will be left for the government to play with. This is the story of the oppression PoK-GB experiences as a result of Pakistan’s illegitimate occupation. Due to the prolonged tyranny, the top classes of both PoK and PoGB have established strong cultural traditions. links to the military system, they are able to take use of the budget’s benefits, including high wages, free fuel, an army of servants, and holidays, as well as bribes in government contracts.

In PoK-GB, the oppressed have no opportunities. A gang of 166 young men from Kotli in PoK killed on June 14 when their boat overturned as they attempted to sail to Italy. The budget of PoK does not include a special provision to offer financial assistance to the families of the deceased, who had each borrowed Rs 2-3 million to pay the agent to transport them abroad. The grieving families are now in debt and vulnerable to loan sharks as a result.

Under Pakistan’s rule, young people have no opportunities. In PoK, the unemployment rate is 14.4%. That amounts to 7,00,000 jobless people.

A Daily Dawn article from January 23, 2021 stated that only 500 of the almost 5,000 students who graduate from Gilgit-Baltistan each year are able to find employment.

How many times does it need to be demonstrated beyond a reasonable question that there has never been and never will be a reprieve for the residents of PoK-GB who are subject to Pakistani occupation?

NO RESPITE FOR PEOPLE OF POK

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