GILGIT: The newly introduced Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 triggered protests on Friday as thousands of people took to the streets in nine of the ten districts of the region to express their opposition to it.
The protesters rejected the order and said that GB should be declared a part of Pakistan instead of being administered through presidential orders. The parties comprising the combined opposition in the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) had given the call for protests.
About 2,000 supporters and workers of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Islami Tehreek-i-Pakistan, Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen, Balawaristan National Front, Awami Action Committee, and members of civil society organisations and trade unions gathered at the Ittehad Chowk here and chanted slogans against both the federal and regional governments.
In his address on the occasion, Leader of the Opposition in GBLA Muhammad Shafi Khan said the opposition parties had decided to continue the protests until the order was withdrawn as per the wishes of the people.
The parties had been protesting over the issue for the last several months, he added. Before the enforcement of the order, he said, the combined opposition had also held a sit-in outside the Parliament House in Islamabad, but no one from the government side bothered to meet its members.
Mr Khan said that not only the opposition parties but also members of various political, religious and regional organisations were protesting against the order. A protest movement had actually been launched against the order.
Turning to the issue of formal announcement of the order’s enforcement, which Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is scheduled to make on May 27 during his visit to the GBLA and GB Council, Mr Khan said: “We have options: boycott the assembly session, give a call for strike across the region, or observe the day as a black day.”
If the people of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas could be declared a part of Pakistan after their region’s merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, why couldn’t those of GB be granted a constitutional status, he wondered.
Others who spoke at the protest rally included Javed Hussain, Advocate Shakeel Ahmed, Nawaz Naji and Maulana Sultan Raees.
A protest demonstration was also held at Yadgaar Chowk in Skardu. More than 3,000 people belonging to various political and religious parties and trade and student organisations were in attendance.
Those who spoke on the occasion said that protests against the order would continue. Prominent among the speakers were Abbas Rizvi, Agha Ali Rizvi, Ghulam Shahzad Agha and Muhammad Ali Dilshad.
Similar demonstrations and sit-ins were organised in Shigar, Kharmang and Ghanche in Baltistan division.
In Diamer, protesters blocked the main chowk in Chilas, the district headquarters.
Protests were also held in Chalt Bazaar, Astore and Ghizer.
Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2018