Legislators in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), including those belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), criticised the government, on Monday, for not keeping them in the loop over withdrawal of subsidy on wheat in the region during the proceedings of the Legislative Assembly.
“The government must clear its position on the issue, as we are answerable to the people,” said Ayub Shah, a PPP legislator from Ghizer valley, during the question-answer session. He asked the government to take lawmakers into confidence over the matter, which has also triggered protests in some areas.
Recently, around 10,000 people took to the streets in Ghizer valley to protest against increase in wheat prices, which have jumped to Rs1,100 from Rs800 per bag containing 100 kilogrammes.
Shah’s comments proved to be the tip of the iceberg. A number of lawmakers, including Abdul Hameed of PPP and Mirza Hussain and Bashir Ahmed of PML-Q reinforced Shah’s standpoint and rebuked the government for its anti-people policy.
“It is disappointing that the subsidy has been revoked by an elected government. The decision should immediately be annulled keeping in mind the financial condition of people,” they asserted.
However, Senior Minister Muhammad Jaffar, who responded to Shah on behalf of the chief minister in his absence, claimed that the subsidy had not been withdrawn.
“This is totally incorrect. The subsidy is there and will remain as it is a gift from Bhutto to the people of G-B,” he remarked.
He said only transportation charges had been increased due to a rise in fuel prices.
Giving the details of the subsidy, Jaffer said Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Supply Corporation purchases wheat from farmers at Rs28 per kg, while the people receive the commodity at a subsidised rate of Rs11 per kg.
After a brief interval, legislators returned with harsh words for the government, this time against the power crisis that has crippled life in the capital city since November.
Raziuddin, an independent member of the assembly, accused a senior official of the water and power department of receiving Rs5 million as bribe for inviting experts from Lahore to repair the cracked reservoir at Naltar hydel power plant.
Similarly, Jamil Ahmed, deputy speaker of the assembly, also criticised the government for re-awarding the contract to inept companies who failed to deliver in the past.
“Instead of blacklisting such companies, they are being given contracts, which calls the government’s credibility into question,” he said. The speaker, Wazir Baig, formed a committee to probe the issue of the cracked reservoir.
The situation became pretty intense when G-B Minister for Water and Power Wazir Shakil informed the house that it would take another two or three days to restore power in Gilgit. Earlier on Saturday, the government had announced that electricity would remain cut off to the capital city till Monday under a load management plan.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2012.