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Wheat subsidy protests: G-B protesters threaten to block Karakoram Highway, hold long march

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GILGIT:Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) continues to be in the grip of protests after the federal government’s refusal to restore the region’s wheat subsidy.

HunzaNews April 20th, 2014.

The shutter-down strike announced by the Awami Action Committee (AAC) entered its fifth day on Saturday. The strikes were launched to pressure the government into restoring G-B’s wheat subsidy which was put in place by prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto owing to the region’s remote location and poor economy.

The AAC, an alliance of around 23 religious, nationalist and political groups formed earlier this year with the single objective of lowering wheat prices, says it will continue the strike till its demands are met.

“Our demands remain unchanged and we will call off the strike after we get written orders from the government,” said Maulana Sultan Raees, a member of the AAC’s executive body, on Saturday.

The movement has intensified in Skardu, located around 270 kilometres from Gilgit, where at least 30,000 people attended sit-ins on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Yadgar Chowk. “The people of the town are highly charged and the number of protesters keeps increasing as people pour in from the surrounding areas,” said Nisar Khan, a resident of Skardu – the second largest town of G-B after Gilgit.

“The rallies here have been witnessing huge crowds in the past three days and more people keep coming,” he said. The protests charged up further after an AAC delegation visited the town on Friday seeking mass support for the strike.

According to witnesses, people chanted slogans like “Go [chief minister] Mehdi Shah, go” as guest speakers held him responsible for the current situation.

The towns of Ghizer, Astore, Hunza and Chilas were equally disturbed as demonstrations kept routine life at bay.

In Chilas, AAC has threatened to block the Karakoram Highway from Sunday (today) to press the government further.

“There will be a long march from all the valleys towards Gilgit,” said AAC Chairman Ehsan Ali.

“We will exercise this option very soon if our demands stand unfulfilled,” he told a rally at a protest camp at Ghari Bagh on Saturday.

Express Tribune

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