Life in GB paralysed as protests over wheat price hike spread

Published January 27, 2024
SKARDU: Residents hold a demonstration at Yadgar-i-Shuhada, on Friday.—Photo by the writer
SKARDU: Residents hold a demonstration at Yadgar-i-Shuhada, on Friday.—Photo by the writer

GILGIT: Life came to a standstill in Gilgit-Baltistan on Friday as a complete shutter-down and wheel-jam strike was observed across the region, with big protest demonstrations and rallies held in all districts against an increase in the subsidised wheat rate and other grievances.

Traffic remained suspended while shops, markets, restaurants and trade centres were closed in various areas of Gilgit, Skardu, Diamer, Ghizer, Astore, Shighar, Ghanche, Khar­mang, Hunza and Nagar.

Attendance in private and government offices and educational institutions remained thin owing to the unavailability of transport, causing difficulties for people to purchase essential commodities and travel.

The strike call was given by the Awami Action Committee (AAC) in consultation with the associations representing traders, transporters and hotel owners. It was the next phase of the protest going on for the last one month against the GB government’s decision to raise the subsidised wheat prices.

The AAC announced that marches from various areas of the region towards Gilgit and Skardu will begin on Saturday (today).

A protest demonstration was held at Siddiq Akbar Chowk in Chilas, the district headquarters of Diamer, after Friday prayers, which was participated by a large number of people.

The speakers condemned the GB government’s decision to raise the subsidised wheat rate, terming it a failure of the chief minister. They warned that if their demands are not fulfilled, the Karakoram Highway would be blocked.

Protest rallies and demonstrations were also held in Tangir, Astore, Kharmang, Skardu, Shigar, Ghanche, Hunza, Nagar and Ghizer after Friday prayers.

The main demonstrations were staged at Garibagh in Gilgit and Yadgar-i-Shuhada in Skardu where thousands of people gathered for their daily, hours-long sit-in.

Ehsan Ali, the AAC chief organiser, said that GB residents had been deprived of their basic rights for past seven decades. “Currently, the GB people have been facing 22 hours of electricity outages, despite spending billions of rupees annually from public funds,” he lamented.

Governor-president meeting

Meanwhile, GB Governor Syed Mehdi Shah met President Dr Arif Alvi in Islamabad on Friday and discussed the overall situation in the region, including wheat subsidy and other issues.

According to a statement issued by the Presidency, the president told the governor that he had raised the issue with the caretaker prime minister and finance minister and hoped that it would be resolved soon.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2024

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