The ban on movement of public transport and trucks has created an acute shortage of food and other essential commodities in the capital city of Gilgit and adjacent valleys.
The move to seal all entry and exit routes came after the killings of three persons in the troubled city, which comes on the heels of the massacre of 19 passengers mostly Shias in the Naran area of Mansehra District last Thursday.
Apart from shortage of food items, the suspension of public transport between Islamabad and Gilgit-Baltistan has already left hundreds of students, patients and tourists, who came to the region for Eid and sight seeing, stranded as the government has failed to make any arrangements for their safe return. Air traffic remained suspended for the third day due to bad weather.
Fruit and vegetable vendors had run out of stock by Friday as no fresh foodstuff could be brought into the city due to a ban on the entry of trucks. “There is no alternative to trucks available, and their entry has been banned due to the violence,” said a vegetable dealer in Gilgit.
Abdul Haseeb, a resident of the city, said the prices of the few edible items available in the markets have shot up, adding that most of the remaining vegetables were stale. “There is nothing fresh available in the markets and what little is available is beyond my purchasing power,” he said. Haseeb noted that bananas from older stocks were selling for Rs350 per dozen, almost double the rate in Islamabad.
On Friday, most shops in the main markets remained closed as police and others security agencies stepped up patrolling ahead of Friday prayers at the two central Sunni and Shia mosques in the main city. A police official said security was tightened in response to fresh clashes between members of the two sects. On Thursday night, a clash erupted between the residents of Amphery, however no loss of life was reported as timely intervention by the forces prevented the violence from spreading.
Meanwhile, shopkeepers and traders are worried. Karim Khan, a local businessman, was hopeful that “the situation will get better soon and people will start turning up” in the markets. “So far there has been no rush of people in the markets because of security fears,” he added.
Hafizur Rehman, the G-B chapter chief of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, flayed the government for failing to attend to the people’s woes.
“The government has miserably failed to deliver as it doesn’t have the will to solve problems,” he said, adding that the government would have to take some strong measures to bring normalcy back to the town.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2012.
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