Gilgit-Baltistan Gripped by 32-Day Wheat Price Surge Protest

Gilgit-Baltistan Gripped

Entering its 32nd day, the protest against rising wheat prices has plunged Gilgit Baltistan into a state of paralysis.

Orchestrated by the Awami Action Committee, the demonstration includes a complete shutdown and marches toward major cities, with thousands braving harsh winter conditions.

Amidst the escalating protest, the absence of the Governor, Chief Minister, and cabinet officials from Gilgit Baltistan, stationed in Islamabad, is stoking frustration among demonstrators. Chief Minister Haji Gulbar Khan faces mounting calls for resignation due to perceived inefficiencies, primarily the substantial increase in subsidized wheat prices.

Protesters from Nagar, Hunza, and Ghizer have already reached Gilgit, while residents from various Baltistan districts are converging in Skardu, further intensifying the month-long protest.

The Awami Action Committee has outlined a comprehensive set of demands directed at both regional and federal authorities. While the federal government approved a quota of 150,000 MT of wheat for the current fiscal year to address the financial burden on GB, the demand for a complete rollback of the wheat price hike remains unabated, escalating the intensity of protests.

In an attempt to break the deadlock, the federal government sanctioned a shift to 100% local wheat supply to alleviate financial strain in GB. However, the primary demand of reversing the recent price hike remains unmet, heightening tensions for regional and federal authorities.

Chief Minister Haji Gulbar Khan engages in discussions with Caretaker Federal Minister for National Food Security & Research, Dr. Kausar Abdullah Malik, regarding the supply of required wheat to GB while exploring plans to enhance GB’s agricultural potential.

Despite these efforts, the Awami Action Committee has announced the next phase of protests, including a complete shutter-down strike in Skardu and region-wide protests starting Friday. Protesters are not only seeking a reversal of the wheat price hike but also improved electricity supply and the repeal of the finance bill.

The issue began when the GB government fixed the subsidized wheat price at Rs 36 per kilogram. Chief Minister Gulbar Khan asserts that this decision aims to stabilize wheat prices and ensure fair returns for local farmers.

As Gilgit Baltistan grapples with the delicate balance between economic sustainability and public welfare, the proposed solution emphasizes exclusive local wheat supply to GB. Challenges persist, highlighting the complexity of sustaining subsidies amidst fiscal constraints, prompting a nuanced approach for economic stability and public welfare in GB.