Occupied Kashmir lockdown breaks backbone of economy, $1.5 billion losses incurred


ISLAMABAD - The continuous lockdown of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK) at the hands of Indian government has broken the back of the region's economy, resulting in financial losses worth at least $1.5 billion since August 5.

Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), the region's main trade body, informed *Deutsche Welle (DW)* about the losses. The trade body now plans to take legal action against the Indian government for the financial losses.

Nasir Khan, senior vice president of the KCCI, said that the trade body would ask the court to appoint an external agency to assess the damages.

IoK has become a virtual prison since August 5 due to continuous lockdown and internet blockade imposed by India, the Indian government has also stationed 900,000 army personnel in occupied Kashmir, a decision that has worsened ties with neighboring Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani government has been actively pressing India and the international community to end the lockdown. Pakistan Foreign Office on Friday said that the persecution of nearly eight million unarmed and innocent Kashmiri Muslims, incarcerated by 900,000 Indian security forces for over four months, was a living testimony to India being a country with no respect for human rights and minority rights.

On economic front, every sector of business in the region had been hit after the clampdown and internet ban in IoK since August 5. “The handicraft, tourism, IT industry, e-commerce sectors and carpet industry were the worst hit," said KCCI President Sheikh Ashiq Hussain, while talking to the *Kashmir Media Service*. “Businesses have witnessed huge losses and all sort of activities have come down in the Valley post August 5."

Hussain said that the hotel and restaurant industry has seen more than 30,000 people losing their jobs. “The e-commerce sector, which includes courier services for purchases made online, has seen 10,000 people losing their jobs. The hotel staff, houseboat owners, shikarawalas and transporters have been sitting idle or doing menial jobs. Weavers in Kashmir are now working as labourers to earn their livelihood," he said.

Hussain said that many new businesses were completely dependent on the internet, that have slumped after internet blockade. “As per the figures of handicrafts industry, orders for carpets, shawls, paper machie has come down by 62 percent than the previous years. We used to have bulk orders on the New Year and Christmas. Now there are no orders because the traders don't have any access to the internet. Many new businesses especially start-ups are completely dependent on social media but they have not been able to access it due to the communications gag," he added.