The Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan (POGB) Awami Action Committee, currently spearheading protests for the abolition of the wheat price increase, reinstatement of health cards, and autonomy, has issued a stern statement in response to recent remarks of interim minister Shams Lone.
Shams Lone asserted during a press conference that those participating in “anti-state” activities with external funding during the ongoing protests would be dealt with strictly. This has further heightened tensions in the region.
The Awami Action Committee, representing the aggrieved people of POGB, responded by challenging Shams Lone to provide evidence supporting the accusations or issue a public apology. Failing to do so, the committee has warned that they will not participate in negotiations with the 6-member committee, including Lone. The 6-member committee, formed to negotiate with the Awami Action Committee, was constituted by the occupying government in response to weeks of protests.
More than a month of protest
The protests, initiated after the POGB government abolished the wheat subsidy on December 26, initially focused on issues such as the wheat subsidy, health card reinstatement, and the controversial Finance Act of 2023. However, with the occupying government failing to address their concerns, the Awami Action Committee has entered the second phase of protests, demanding complete autonomy for POGB under a 15-point Charter of Demands.
Undeterred by the chilling winter conditions, people across POGB, including Hunza, Yasin, Astore, among others have converged at Ittehad Chowk in Gilgit. The protest marks an unprecedented and significant demonstration in the occupational history of POGB, spanning over 75 years.
The Awami Action Committee remains resolute in its stance, declaring that the sit-in will persist until their demands, including autonomy, are met. The refusal to engage in committee discussions with Shams Lone reflects the deep-seated mistrust and dissatisfaction among the protesters, signalling an intensification of the standoff between the people of POGB and the occupying government.