April 24, 2014
By Shabbir Mir
Agitation across Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) over the wheat subsidy gained momentum as delegations from other parts of the region reached Gilgit on Wednesday.
Convoys from Skardu and Astore valleys reached the protest camp at Ghari Bagh by Tuesday night, injecting new life into the movement which entered its ninth day on Wednesday. They stayed in the camp overnight while residents extended hospitality by providing them food and water.
Well-fed and rested, the speakers kept a crowd of nearly 20,000 engaged. They criticised the government, bureaucracy and ministers for being unable to resolve their issues and even demanded resignations from ministers, saying they have failed the public time and again over the past four years.
“Listen to us our so-called rulers!” shouted one of the leaders of Awami Action Committee (AAC) from the crowd. Amid loud jeers, he added: “We are not going to withdraw at any cost. Subsidy is our right and we will get it by hook or by crook.”
“This crowd is a referendum against [Chief Minister] Mehdi Shah’s government,” maintained Sultan Raees, another leader of AAC, adding Shah should either accept their demands or step down.
Meanwhile, shops and markets in the city were forcibly closed down by a group of people claiming to be representatives of AAC, an alliance of around 23 religious and political groups formed earlier this year to fight for lower wheat prices.
A show of unity
In an unprecedented show of unity and harmony, Sunnis and Shias prayed Maghrib (evening prayers) alongside each other at Ghari Bagh on Tuesday.
“Let us pray this unity stays and we succeed in achieving our goals,” said Maulana Khalil Qasmi as he led the prayers for which the AAC members and protesters had taken a break from their demonstration.