Weeks of anger over food shortage and runaway inflation has snowballed into massive anti-government demonstrations in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and illegally held Gilgit Baltistan. People from all walks of life in nearly all parts of the occupied regions blocked highways and burnt tyres to express their resentment against the government.

Protesters said they were unable to make their ends meet owing to the government’s policy failures which resulted in a sharp rise in the wheat price.

Pakistan is going through an unprecedented economic crisis, which has essentially manifested in the form of a sudden shortage of flour prices. Government depots that provide subsidised wheat to citizens have been locked.

“People are out on streets because there is no food, there is no flour, and in PoJK, in one day, they have increased the price of wheat by 1,200 rupees. People are fed-up. The government depots for flour are locked. There is no flour there. People in almost every city of PoK are protesting, even students, lawyers, civil society and women are protesting.” said Amjad Ayub Mirza, a PoK activist.

The ripple effects of the crisis, however, are even more worrisome in PoK and Gilgit Baltistan as people here have already been discriminated against historically.

Observers have time and again blamed the government for being both negligent and systematically discriminatory towards the people of PoK.

They say Islamabad has ensured over the past seven-and-a-half decades that the people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir remain marginalised.

Islamabad has also been accused of meting out second-class citizen treatment to the people of PoK.

Locals have warned the government that if their issues were not resolved immediately then they will not let the administration function.

“Likewise, in Pakistan-occupied Gilgit Baltistan, there have been massive public meetings organized across the region in sub-zero temperatures. They have been protesting against the land grab of private property by the government without any compensation and also against the electricity bills. There are protests against 22 hours of load shedding a day, which has completely destroyed the businesses over there and the living conditions of the people” added Amjad Ayub Mirza.

Pakistan has misruled these regions since it illegally gained its control post British-India partition in 1947.

People here say, they have historically been treated as second-class citizens and are subjected to intimidation and cruelty if they ask for equality.