Residents hold a protest sit-in at Yadgar-i-Shuhada in Skardu on the 22nd consecutive day, on Wednesday. —Photo by the writer
Residents hold a protest sit-in at Yadgar-i-Shuhada in Skardu on the 22nd consecutive day, on Wednesday. —Photo by the writer

GILGIT: Demonstrations continued in various areas of Gilgit-Baltistan for the 22nd day on Wednesday, with protesters urging the restoration of a wheat subsidy in the region.

Gilgit-Baltistan Council members have declared their support for the ongoing protests and have decided to submit a summary to the caretaker prime minister, recommending an increase in the supply of subsidised wheat and the restoration of old prices.

Despite challenging weather, protests and sit-ins have endured for the 22nd day in Skardu, Gilgit, and other districts, expressing opposition to the rise in subsidised wheat prices and other concerns.

The call for protests has been issued by the Awami Action Committee, an alliance of different political and religious parties in the region. Thousands of protesters have continued their sit-in at Yadgar-i-Shuhada and other areas in Skardu, chanting slogans against the government and public representatives.

A protest rally moved from Jail Chowk to Yadgar Chowk in Skardu. In Gilgit, a sit-in has persisted for the 15th day at Garibagh, with the active participation of members from various political and religious parties.

A protest rally was also organised in Yasin Valley of Ghizer and in Nagar Khas. Protest demonstrations have been coordinated in Ghanche, Shigar, Hunza, Ast, Diamer and Kharmang.

The demonstrators have pledged to persist with their protest until their demands are met. On Monday, GB Assembly member Fathullah Khan negotiated with the protesters, attempting to persuade them to postpone their protest until the Feb 8 general elections in Pakistan.

He assured them that he would raise the issue with the new government. However, the protesters declined to call off the demonstration, adding that if their demands were not fulfilled, they would initiate protest marches from Skardu and Gilgit after Jan 20.

A meeting of GB Council members was convened at the Council Secretariat on Tuesday to address the matter. Presided over by its standing committee chairman, Ayub Shah, the meeting was attended by council’s joint secretary Siddiq Khan Khattak and members Sheikh Ahmed Ali Noori, Syed Shabia Al-Hussain, Abdul Rahman and Hashmatullah Khan.

During the meeting, the council members expressed solidarity with the protesters and announced support for their demands.

According to a press release, the council decided to promptly send a summary to the prime minister of Pakistan, who also serves as chairman of the GB Council, demanding an increase in the subsidised wheat quota for GB and the restoration of old rates.

Concerned about the elimination of the health card, the council members called for its immediate reinstatement. They highlighted that numerous patients from Gilgit-Baltistan are currently receiving treatment at hospitals in various cities of Pakistan, including Islamabad. Expressing worry over the health card’s termination, the GB Council members directed the health secretary to resolve the matter expeditiously.

In a parallel development, opposition members in the GB Assembly have submitted a requisition for a session to discuss the financial and wheat crises in the region.

Opposition leader in the GB Assembly Kazim Mesum, along with other opposition members, declared their support for the protesters.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2024

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