Gilgit-Baltistan deprived of basic necessities


Rebellion against Pakistan is on the rise in Gilgit-Baltistan.  The local people are questioning the right of Pakistan to divide and change the geographical structure of Gilgit-Baltistan… writes Muzaffar Khan Kashmiri

Gilgit-Baltistan is a part of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an unsettled area administered by Pakistan. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have repeatedly demanded the government for the deprivation of basic facilities and from time to time they have come to the streets against the non-provision of basic facilities.  Recently, according to reports, protest demonstrations were held in various districts of the region including Gilgit Astor, Diamar, Ghizar, Hunza.

Protests were staged in Nagar, Skardu, Shagar, Kharmang and Ghanche districts on Saturday against wheat price hike and other grievances.  Major roads including Karakoram Highway, Skardu Road, Ghazar Road looked deserted.  Organizers say the only way to end the strike is for the government to accept their 15 demands.  Awami Action Committee (ACC) had given the call for protest under Plan B as part of the protest movement that has been going on for the past one month.

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The Awami Action Committee rejected the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) government’s decision to roll back the increase in the price of subsidized wheat.  The Awami Action Committee claimed that the protest would be called off only after all 15 demands are met.

Awami Action Committee representative Faizan Mir further said that important stakeholders were not consulted for this decision. The protesters said they would end the strike after the authorities meet their demands, including restoration of subsidized wheat prices at 2022 levels, suspension of the Finance Act 2022, rollback of various taxes,  Ensuring GB’s share of the NFC award, and provision of land ownership rights to indigenous peoples. All leases granted to outsiders for mineral exploration should be cancelled, 80% royalty of Diamer Bhasha Dam should be given to the people of GB under net hydel profit, electricity supply should be ensured to the residents of GB, electricity  blockade should be removed, medical and engineering education system should be established.  College for women to be established in the area.

Representative Awami Action Committee Baltistan said that the protest will continue until the approval of the 15-point charter of demand.  He said that the 34-day protest has been postponed for a few days.

The condition imposed by thes AAC to start negotiations with the government was linked to the issuance of a notification to withdraw the subsidized hike in wheat prices. He warned that protests would resume in Baltistan Division if all demands are not met.  Organizers claimed that more people were joining the protest and announced sit-ins at Ittihad Chowk and other areas until their demands are met.

In Gilgit-Baltistan, no bus for college students will be seen plying on the road. You will see diesel generators outside shops but electricity will not be seen anywhere. Gilgit-Baltistan is facing hours of load-shedding due to which the local people are forced to live a precarious life in darkness.

Pamir Times, a popular newspaper of Gilgit-Baltistan, said in its recent report that Remote valleys and remote areas are either plunged into darkness and depend on diesel generators, kerosene or natural gas-burning lanterns and candles. Successive governments in the region have failed to develop a sustainable mechanism for power generation and distribution in the region. Knee-jerk reactions and populist rhetoric or tactics are often used to quell the angry masses, that too, only partially; without solving the deepening crisis Tourism in the region is enhanced only through promotion.

Businesses in the area, especially hotels, have been damaged due to power outages. Here you will find rows of private schools and private hospitals, but will not see government colleges, schools or hospitals. You will get ten deputy commissioners in ten districts but not ten lady doctors. The limitation is that even today there is no MRI machine in Baltistan region consisting of four districts. Post of Deputy Commissioner, Assistant Commissioner and SS are posted here. No more new posts are being made for Patwari and Police constables.

Today people are deprived of all basic civil and political rights.  If people protest, their leaders are illegally arrested under Pakistan’s anti-terrorism laws.  The so-called assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan does not discuss people’s issues. The ruling elite allocates funds for luxuries and increases their salaries and allowances, but when it comes to public works, they say there is no budget. The government always fails to provide clean drinking water, electricity, health facilities, roads, wheat, pulses and education facilities.

Rebellion against Pakistan is on the rise in Gilgit-Baltistan.  The local people are questioning the right of Pakistan to divide and change the geographical structure of Gilgit-Baltistan. The government of Pakistan should give its right to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan so that they can live a life with honor and dignity like the people of other countries. 

“Kahney ko watan Azad hai, magar sanson tak per pabandi hai. Bijli ke bandar hain, magar gharon mei andhera hey andhera hai”

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