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Friday June 21, 2024

Protests persist across GB against wheat price surge

By Nisar Abbas Sadpara
January 09, 2024

SKARDU: Widespread protests have erupted in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) following the provincial government’s decision to increase subsidised wheat prices from Rs20 to Rs36 per kg on January 1. The agitation has gained momentum, encompassing all districts, including Diamer, Gilgit, Skardu, and Ganche.

In Skardu, a 14-day protest session is underway, marked by active participation from leaders and workers of the Majlis-e-Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen. Protesters rejected the price hike and advocated for GB inclusion in Pakistan’s constitutional framework.

Thousands of citizens are seen protesting against a hike in wheat prices in Gilgit-Baltistan on Dec 28, 2023, in this still taken from a video. —YouTube/HDM-TV
Thousands of citizens are seen protesting against a hike in wheat prices in Gilgit-Baltistan on Dec 28, 2023, in this still taken from a video. —YouTube/HDM-TV

The public outcry extends beyond economic concerns, as demonstrators demanded representation in all constitutional institutions and strict adherence to agreements pertaining to taxation. Moreover, protesters expressed distress over local activists being included under the Anti-Terrorism Act, deeming it a severe violation of human rights.

Prominent speakers in Skardu, including Syed Qamar Abbas Al-Husaini, Sheikh Mirza Ali, Syed Agha Ali, and Ghulam Hussain Attar, accused the provincial government of targeting those advocating for the fundamental rights of GB by subjecting them to the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Addressing protests in Ganche and Skardu, the organisers accused local leaders of federal political parties of negligence and facilitating the federal government while overlooking the GB rights. Concerns were also raised about officials allegedly involved in the illegal sale of lands to non-locals.

Protesters in Hussaini Chowk of Madhopur, Kharmang, reject purchasing flour at the new prices, emphasising the federal government’s responsibility for the welfare of war-affected migrants under the Karachi agreement.

The Coordination Committee and Public Action Committee, comprising political, regional, and religious groups, have presented a consensus charter of demands. These include the immediate restoration of previous wheat prices, the development of new energy projects in the GB, establishment of educational institutions such as medical and engineering universities, especially women universities, revival of commercial routes with occupied Kashmir, and relief in air and land travel fares. The protesters stand united in their call for comprehensive changes to address both economic and constitutional grievances in the GB.