GILGIT, Pakistan – Protests in northern Pakistan have intensified as hundreds of people have taken to the streets in Skardu town of Gilgit-Baltistan this week to vent their anger over long power cuts and wheat shortage in the hilly region.
This comes in the important northern Pakistani town which is said to be the gateway for China Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC.
“The unrest continues for days,” said Ibrahim Mehdi as he speaks from the protest site where about 10,000 people are said to have gathered. “And it will go on till our demands are met,” said the protestors who is a retired teacher.
In order to shame the government, the charged crowd held lanterns while chanting slogans against the government, which, locals say, is least interested in public issues. The chief minister, an inexperienced person picked on recommendations from then prime minister Imran Khan’s wife, is accused of being more interested in serving the party chief than the people he represents.
Despite the region being in the grip of freezing cod, a large number of political and social activists showed up in the sit-in, responding to a call by the region most active political body – the Baltistan Awami Action Committee.
A spokesman for the committee said Skardu was facing power outages lasting as long as 22 hours, amid freezing temperatures.
In their chants, the demonstrators criticised the Gilgit-Baltistan government for their “indifference to our suffering.”
Wheat Shortage and protests
In the protest in northern Pakistan, wheat shortage is another issue that the population is dealing with. According to Farman Hussain, president of traders’ union, and Najaf Ali, head of the Awami Action Committee, subsidised flour had almost completely disappeared from the market as a result of the federal government’s reduction in supplies to the area.
They bemoaned the fact that elected officials ignored basic concerns and that the majority of them avoided the public whenever the populace experienced difficulty.
Najaf Ali remarked, “Instead of resolving people’s issues, they have flown to Islamabad to avoid public fury.”
Pushing further protests?
To come up with a strategy to lessen the suffering of the populace, the Awami Action Committee plans to convene a conference of the main political parties in Gilgit-Baltistan to further push the protests in northern Pakistan.