Thousands march towards Gilgit as strike against taxes enters 6th day

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  • GB CM asks protestors not to take law into their hands

ISLAMABAD: As the ongoing complete shutter down strike against tax enters into the sixth consecutive day, thousands of people from 10 districts have finally started a long march towards Gilgit, the capital of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) on Tuesday.

On the other hand, after a meeting between Minister of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Barjees Tahir and GB Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman, the federal government has decided to hold a meeting of the cabinet on the tax issue soon.

The centre this year had extended the taxation law to GB through Adaptation Act of 2012, being implemented through GB Council. However, the imposition of taxes without granting constitutional rights to people of GB is being strongly resisted in the areas for the last few months.

People stood against the taxation law when they started being charged income tax, withholding tax, and tax on banking transactions etc.

The shutter down strike call given by traders’ alliance Awami Action Committee and opposition parties have attracted masses across the region. Despite all-out efforts on the part of the regional government of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), the protests and sit-ins are being observed in all 10 districts of the region.

The thousands of protestors, in over 600 vehicles, have started moving towards the provincial capital on Tuesday. The large gathering was held in Skardu city where protestors from District Kharmang, Ganche, Shigar and Skardu assembled and started moving towards Gilgit.

Earlier on Tuesday, Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman and his key cabinet members, who are in Islamabad from the last six days, released a video message through social media, warning the protestors to avoid taking the law into their hands and accusing them of playing in hands of the enemy. The video message, as the leaders of traders’ alliance claimed, has fueled already charged protestors who would now continue their protest until the withdrawal of the taxes.

The long march participants are scheduled to arrive in Gilgit city by Wednesday, after 8-hour long journey from Skardu, and join the protest sit-in and continue their protest till their demands are met.

Shutter down and wheel jam strike continued despite harsh weather conditions and thousands of people participated in the sit-ins held at Yadgar Chowk, Skardu and Etihad Chowk, Gilgit.

As the government is left with no option but to talk with the protestors, the dialogue rounds have reportedly started between GB government officials and protesting parties. The talks held on Tuesday, however, ended without any headway.

Not only opposition political and religious parties, bar associations, trade and student unions are protesting in GB, but also citizens of the region living in other cities of including Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore, have been protesting in solidarity with their brethren.

Addressing the protest sit-in Skardu, Awami Action Committee leader Agha Ali Rizvi said that people of the area have never opposed paying taxes, but they are justified to demand equal rights like other citizens of the country. “Our demand is that first give us the constitutional rights than extend every law imposed across the country,” he added.

On the other hand, sources told Pakistan Today that the arrival of thousands of people in Gilgit, a sensitive city on sectarian grounds, is risky. Both the regional and federal government should resolve the issue immediately before occurrence of any unwanted situation, said sources.

“The fresh mode of confrontation of the government will not help resolve the issue. It could further deteriorate the situation,” the sources in GB government said.

Following the strike across GB, life in the area has practically been paralyzed for the last six days. Despite harsh weather and temperature going minus 15 Celsius, thousands of people are on streets.

On the other hand, the chief minister and key ministers are visiting Lahore and Islamabad and attending weddings and birthday ceremonies.

 

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