Kashmir: GB protesters’ key demand met, protests continue

Jammu & Kashmir POK - Pakistan Occupied Kashmir

GILGIT: The Awami Action Committee (AAC), an alliance of political and religious parties and traders’ unions, on Monday rejected the Gilgit-Baltistan government’s decision to withdraw an increase in the subsidised wheat rate in the region and announced continuing the protest till the acceptance of their all 15 demands.

A notification issued by the GB Chief Minister’s Secretariat earlier in the day stated that said after consultations and with unanimous approval of the members of GB cabinet, the chief minister has been pleased to withdraw the notification issued by the cabinet and S&GAD on Dec 5, 2023, and subsequent notifications issued by the food secretary regarding the revised sale rates of wheat and flour in GB with immediate effect, taking consideration the purchasing power of poor consumers in the larger public interest.

Talking to reporters, GB Assembly member Fathullah Khan claimed that the decision to withdraw the subsidised wheat price had been taken after negotiations with the representatives of protesters. He said the government’s committee held a meeting with the representatives of protesters from Nagar, Baltistan and Diamer.

The protesters from Nagar district called off their long march following the decision.

However, the AAC rejected the decision and announced continuing the protest. AAC chief organiser Ehsan Ali Advocate said the basic struggle of the protesters is to get their 15-point charter of demands implemented by the government, insisting that they would continue the protest till the fulfilment of all of their demands.

Faizan Mir, a representative of the AAC, said negotiations with irrelevant people were not acceptable, claiming the real stakeholders had not been consulted.

The AAC demands include the restoration of the subsidised wheat price at the 2022 level, suspension of the Finance Act 2022, withdrawal of various taxes, ensuring GB’s share in the NFC award, and the provision of land ownership rights to locals.

It also demanded that all leases granted to outsiders for exploration of minerals be cancelled, 80 per cent royalty of Diamer-Bhasha Dam under net hydel profit be given to GB people, electricity supply to GB residents be ensured, the 22-hour power outage be ended, medical and engineering colleges in the region be established, and traditional routes in GB be restored.

Najaf Ali, a representative of the AAC from Baltistan, said the protest would continue till the acceptance of the 15-point charter of demands. “The 34-day long protest has been postponed for some days,” he said, adding that the AAC’s condition to start negotiations with government was linked with the issuance of the notification regarding the withdrawal of subsidised wheat price hike.

He warned that the protest will restart in Baltistan division if all the demands are not fulfilled.

Meanwhile, the protest demonstration continued at Etihad Chowk in Gilgit, with the protesters blocking the main roads. They said that despite many tactics and conspiracies, the GB people would continue their struggle till the acceptance of all their demands.

The organisers claimed that more people are joining the protest and announced staging a sit-in at Etihad Chowk and other areas till the acceptance of their demands.__Courtesy dawn.com