Tensions in the City: Gilgit-Baltistan administration imposes Section 144 ahead of strikes
GILGIT: The administration of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) has imposed Section 144 in the city ahead of the Awami Action Committee’s (AAC) call for region-wide strikes.
The AAC, an alliance of 23 religious, nationalist and political parties, has given a call for a complete shutter-down and wheel-jam strike on April 15 in an attempt to press the government to bring down the price of wheat to the 2009 rates. G-B has already witnessed a similar strike last month which was also called by the AAC.
“Protest rallies and demonstrations are not allowed in Gilgit,” said Deputy Commissioner Sibtain Ahmed while speaking to the media on Sunday, “All violators will be taken to task.”
He accused the AAC of misleading the public on the issue of wheat subsidy as Ahmed claimed the subsidy has been in place for decades and remains unchanged; however, transportation charges have increased over the years due to a spike in petroleum prices, resultantly pushing the price of wheat up as well.
AAC Chairman Ehsan Ali flayed the administration’s decision to ban rallies and termed it an attempt to curb freedom guaranteed by the Constitution.
“This decision of the G-B administration is against the law and reminds us of the days when we lived under martial law,” Ali told reporters on Saturday.
Rejecting the ban, he said the strikes would continue as per the plan chalked out earlier. The chairman claimed AAC’s efforts had led to the revival of sectarian harmony in the region that otherwise frequently witnesses violent clashes.
“Instead of suppressing the voice of the poor, the bureaucracy should help AAC achieve its goals,” said Ali, “Our people are deprived of basic amenities like water, electricity and wheat.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2014.