Pakistan

15 Demands of Poeple of Gilgit Baltistan, Huge Protests and Media Blackout

Gilgit Baltistan is witnessing widespread protests due to a sharp increase in wheat prices, dissatisfaction with regional governance, and a broader demand for representation and economic justice. Understanding the core issues will help to comprehend the depth of the grievances and the aspirations of the people. Gilgit Baltistan, with its breathtaking landscapes, is currently at the center of a 33-day battle for autonomy. Starting with a surge in wheat prices, the protests have evolved into a broader movement, symbolizing the region's quest for self-governance.

Backdrop: The protests began when the cost of wheat, a basic necessity, suddenly rose. Led by the Awami Action Committee (AAC), the demonstrations go beyond wheat prices, representing a broader struggle for regional autonomy.

Wheat Woes and Economic Strain: The spike in wheat prices hit hard, impacting the lives of the locals who heavily rely on subsidies from the central government. This economic strain became a rallying point, uniting the community in their call for fair treatment and economic justice.

Taxation and Representation: One key grievance is taxation without representation. Despite not being officially part of Pakistan, the people of Gilgit Baltistan are subject to taxes without having a say in how those funds are used. This lack of representation has fueled discontent among the populace.

Power Struggles and Electricity Woes: The battle for autonomy extends to power struggles, as the region, despite its potential to generate electricity, faces shortages. This lack of control over essential resources becomes a symbol of the broader fight for self-governance.

Land, Mines, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC): The protests also bring attention to the control over land and mines. Locals demand the right to manage their resources, and resist encroachments, especially in the context of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. This economic project has become a focal point of contention.

Historical Reconnection and Trade Routes: Beyond economic concerns, there's a call for historical reconnection, emphasizing ancient trade routes with Ladakh. This not only reflects a desire for cultural ties but also practical considerations for economic growth and livelihood.

15 Demands Presented by the Awami Action Committee in Gilgit-Baltistan:

1. Wheat Subsidy Freeze:

  • Freeze wheat subsidy at 2022 rates.
  • Provide each person with 9 kilograms of wheat a month.

2. Cancellation of Taxes:

  • Cancel Gilgit-Baltistan Finance Act 2023.
  • End all taxes imposed in Gilgit-Baltistan.

3. Resolution of Power Crisis:

  • End artificially created power crisis.
  • Increase electricity production.

4. Financial Resources Agreement:

  • Sign agreement with the federal government.
  • Similar to the “National Finance Commission” for financial resources.

5. Land Ownership Recognition:

  • Accept ownership of locals over uncultivated and barren land.
  • Through the Gilgit-Baltistan Reforms Bill.

6. Governance Restructuring:

  • Replace GB Assembly with a constituent assembly.

7. Free Electricity and Royalty:

  • Provide free electricity from Diamer-Bhasha Dam.
  • Give 80% royalty to GB for Water User Rights and Net Hydel Profits.

8. Mining Lease Revisions:

  • Cancel all mining leases given to non-locals.
  • Award the leases to locals of Gilgit-Baltistan.

9. Recognition of Industries:

  • Declare Tourism and Transportation as Industries in GB.

10. Infrastructure Development:

  • Construct Shounter Tunnel to promote tourism. 
  • Build medical and engineering colleges in Gilgit-Baltistan.
  • Establish a university for women in GB.

11. Historical Trade Routes Restoration:

  • Restore all ancient trade routes and roads.

12. Local Contracts and Profitability:

  • Award PSPD contracts to local contractors in Gilgit-Baltistan.
  • Make NATCO profitable by giving it the transportation contract for wheat supply.

13. Restoration of Ancient Trade Routes:

  • Restore all ancient trade routes and roads.

14. Local Contracts for PSPD Projects:

  • Award PSPD contracts to local contractors in Gilgit-Baltistan.

15. Making NATCO Profitable:

  • Make NATCO profitable by giving it the transportation contract for wheat supply.

 The consequences of this battle for autonomy are profound. Firstly, there's a significant impact on the daily lives of the people – from the affordability of necessities to the control over their resources. Secondly, the protests shed light on the broader issue of representation and governance, not only in Gilgit Baltistan but in regions facing similar challenges worldwide.

 

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