Gilgit, April 4: The Gilgit-Baltistan Administration has enforced section 144 of the constitution under which congregation of four or more people, collection of donations and display of weapons have been outlawed for a period of two months.
The announcement was made yesterday at a media briefing held in the regional capital.
Speaking at the occasion, the Deputy Commissioner of Gilgit, Sibtain Ahmad, said that violators of the law will be persecuted. He also claimed that the subsidy on wheat had not been withdrawn. He accused the Awami Action Committee of misleading the public on the wheat subsidy issue.
Director Food, Momin Jan claimed that the subsidy on wheat was continuing. He added that the supply of wheat to all parts of Gilgit-Baltistan is underway and that there is no wheat shortage or crisis in the entire region. He said that the protest and strike by Flour Mill owners has no justifications.
The ban has been imposed after the Awami Action Committee, an alliance of more than a dozen religious groups, progressive parties and civil society organizations, had announced their strategy to reach out to the public for donations as part of preparations for the 15th April grand strike against the sharp hike in price of wheat in the Gilgit-Baltsitan region. The price of wheat had suddenly jumped from 800 rupees to over 1600 rupees last month sparking protests against the region.
A number of political and civil society organizations came together to resist the sharp price hike and formed the Awami Action Committee which successfully mobilized the public and shut the whole Gilgit-Baltistan region down on the 10th of March. The govt had announced bringing down the price of wheat from 1680 to 1400 rupees in view of the public pressure but that hasn’t convinced the leaders of Awami Action Committee who are adamant at having yet another series of sit-ins, rallies and strikes, starting the 15th of April.
By outlawing congregations of more than 4 people and imposing a ban on collection of donations, the administration is trying to fail the efforts of AAC to mobilize the public in support of their demands.
The administration officials and the politicians have been saying that the subsidy was on the transportation cost of wheat which has risen in view of the increase in the price of petroleum products.
The administration is also working fast to introduce a Ration Card system in the region in efforts to make the supply of wheat transparent and equitable.
In the past, several key ministers and officials have been accused of getting extra flour/wheat in the name of Gilgit-Baltistan and selling it in the open market illegally, becoming millionaires in the process.