GILGIT: They say half a loaf is better than none. This is exactly what Gilgit-Baltistan’s hopes are clinging onto at the moment as the region runs out of its wheat reserves with every passing day.
HunzaNews, May 1, 2015.
The national granary has refused to dispatch the required amount of wheat to G-B, and instead sent in only one fourth of the requirement. Speaking to The Express Tribune, a G-B government official said, “We had asked for 40,000 metric tonnes, but the Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) sent only 10,000 metric tonnes. This too has only happened as a result of the lobbying of the Federal Ministry for G-B and Kashmir Affairs.”
A shortage has already occurred as wheat bags have vanished from shelves across the region. Half-baked measures are being seen as the likely cause behind the crisis. The federal government has fixed an annual ration of 150,000 bags of grain for the region. According to sources, the Nawaz administration owes as much as Rs30 billion to Passco on behalf of the G-B government. The internal debt has deprived the people of the region, who are already up in arms, of the basic necessity. Protests have taken place in Diamer, Hunza and other valleys as memories of last year’s shortage are still afresh.
With elections coming up on June 8, G-B’s opposition parties have begun the guessing game as to which side the bread is buttered. They claim the shortage has been doctored by the Nawaz Sharif government in order to blackmail the people into voting for their candidates. “The shortage has been orchestrated in order to influence voters,” alleged Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl leader Rehmat Khaliq. He claimed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s untimely visit of G-B along with such tactics were all part of a larger plan to rig the polls.
One month only
When approached for comment, G-B Minister for Food Abdul Jehan Khan confirmed that the required amount of grain has not been delivered. “We have only a month’s supply left,” he told The Express Tribune on Wednesday.
The minister said by the time the grain is delivered to the more remote areas, G-B government’s granary will be empty. He hoped the approaching polls might force the government to take the issue up and nip the crisis in its early stages.
The topography and weather of G-B have never been conducive to large-scale cultivation and the region’s indigenous agricultural produce remains minimal. The region is compelled to largely rely on the federal government for providing wheat against modest price tags.