Wheat Uprising

The ongoing demonstrations in Gilgit Baltistan (GB) against the surge in subsidised wheat rates have evolved into a powerful expression of deep-seated grievances and frustration among the residents. For the past 12 days, thousands have taken to the streets, protesting not only against the increased wheat prices but also highlighting broader socio-economic concerns that have been simmering for months.

The decision by The Awami Action Committee to continue the protests for an indefinite period speaks volumes about the dissatisfaction with the gov­ernment’s response. Despite rounds of negotiations, the protesters feel the government has failed to adequately address their concerns, leading to a sense of disillusionment. The protesters’ demands extend beyond the roll­back of wheat prices, reflecting a collective call for basic rights, representa­tion, and a more inclusive governance approach.

The daily sit-ins across districts indicate a mounting momentum and em­phasise the urgent need for a meaningful resolution from the authorities. The protesters, including political groups, civil society organisations, trade unions, and representatives from the transport and tourism sectors, have unified in their discontent. The widespread opposition expressed through placards and previous demonstrations in various regions illustrates the gravity of the situation and the unified voice against the increased subsi­dised wheat rates. The protesters argue that the rationale behind the hike in subsidised wheat rates is unjustified, blaming increased transportation costs and other factors. They highlight the alleged extravagant increase in salaries and privileges of GB Assembly members while neglecting to allocate a significant budget for providing subsidised wheat to the impoverished. The discontent also extends to the imposition of taxes without representa­tion in parliament, further deepening the residents’ frustration. Awami Ac­tion Committee chief coordinator Advocate Ehsan Ali emphasised the peo­ple’s demand for basic rights and warned of a more substantial movement if the government continues to delay the resolution of the issues. The protest­ers’ demands, ranging from reverting subsidised wheat prices to addressing broader concerns like the electricity crisis and GB’s share in the NFC award, underscore the multifaceted nature of the grievances.

As protests persist amid freezing temperatures, the ball is now in the govern­ment’s court to respond effectively to the demands of the people. The ongoing coordination between GB Finance Minister Mohammad Ismail and the federal government offers a glimmer of hope for a positive resolution. However, the gov­ernment must recognize the urgency of the situation and take comprehensive steps to address the deeply rooted issues facing the residents of Gilgit Baltistan.

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