After a month of persistent protests across Pakistan-Occupied Gilgit Baltistan (POGB), the region is now witnessing a comprehensive shutdown. District headquarters, multiple towns, and villages in POGB have ground to a halt, with Gilgit, Skardu, Diamer, Ghizer, Astore, Shighar, Ghanche, Khar¬mang, Hunza, and Nagar all participating in the shutdown on January 26 and 27.
Protest sites such as Yadgar-i-Shuhada Chowk in Skardu and Garibagh in Gilgit, which have been focal points of the demonstrations, saw a substantial influx of protestors. Common people from all corners of POGB took to the streets, participating in sit-ins and demonstrations against the recent increase in wheat prices. Meanwhile, numerous convoys, involving tens of thousands of people from various districts, are en route to Gilgit and Skardu, marking a more unified and determined phase of the protest.
In a groundbreaking move, convoys from Yasin and Gojal valley have already departed for Gilgit, symbolizing the expanding geographical scope of the protest movement.
It’s noteworthy that the protest intensity in POGB has escalated. Initially centered around the reinstatement of the wheat subsidy, the protest now encompasses a broader spectrum of demands. The Awami Action Committee has declared 15 demands, emphasizing their non-negotiable stance, stating that the protests will only cease when each demand is met.
15 Demands of Awami Action Committee
- Reinstate the wheat subsidy to its 2022 levels, providing 9 kg of wheat per month.
- Abolish the Gilgit Baltistan Finance Act 2023 and all taxes levied in the region.
- Increase pulse production, ending the crisis created by the occupying governments.
- Establish an NFC-style financial agreement between the occupying POGB government and the Pakistani establishment.
- Declare all uninhabited and barren lands as 100% public property.
- Establish a Constituent Assembly in place of the Gilgit-Baltistan puppet Assembly.
- Allocate 80% of Net Hydel Profits and Water User Rights of Diamer Bhasha Dam to Gilgit Baltistan, free of charge.
- Cancel mining leases granted to non-indigenous persons and lease them to local people.
- Grant industry status to tourism-related hotels and transport in POGB.
- Build a Twitter account to promote tourism and provide efficient travel facilities.
- Establish Medical and Engineer War Lodges in POGB.
- Establish a Women’s University for women in POGB.
- Restore ancient highways and roads in Gilgit-Baltistan immediately.
- Divide PSDP projects, award contracts to the local contracting community of POGB, and focus on poverty eradication.
- Assign the wheat supply contract to the provincial organization NATCO to recover the organization from losses.
Nonetheless, in response to the escalating protests and shutdown, Pakistan and its puppet government in POGB are resorting to power. Reports suggest that Section 144 has been imposed for one month on any form of protest on the Siachen highway as well as internet services provided by the Pakistan Army-controlled SCO have been also deactivated