Expansion project of the Karakoram Highway has affected thousands of families in different parts of Gilgit – Baltistan. The project is being implemented jointly by the government of Pakistan and China through the Chinese Roads and Bridges Corporation (CRBC). This project, on completion, is expected to facilitate the two nuclear power neighbour countries expand the volume of trade and create new jobs.
Notwithstanding the expectations and end results of the project, one can certainly see that the process of expanding the KKH has become a pain in the neck for people of the region, for several reasons.
First, the expansion process has left the entire KKH between Khunzhrav and Chilas in a dilapidated condition, increasing the number of hours spent on road.
Second, the project is likely to be delayed further, due to the destructions induced by damming of the Hunza River.
Third, and the most important, because the government has failed to compensate those who lost means of livelihood due to the expansion project.
Every now and then protesters stage demonstrations against the government for failing to pay compensation to the people whose cropped fields, trees and orchards have been destroyed to expand the road.
An action committee of the affected people had recently organized a protest demonstration in Hunza – Nagar to demand solution for the compensation issue. One of the leaders of the committee was hurt in a scuffle that erupted between the protesters and the police after the later tried to stop the protesters who had blocked the main Karakoram Highway.
A dialogue was later held between the committee and government officials without any results. The committee has, now, announced to hold a series of protests to pressurize the government into action. They have also threatened to disrupt the expansion work throughout the Hunza Valley from January 10, if their demands are not met.
We think that anxiety of the protesters is justified because the bureaucracy and political leaders, both, have failed to protect rights of the affected people. We, however, urge peaceful protests for making the government realize that the delay is causing threats for a strategic project of international stature.
The local people’s demands should be met at all costs and they should be compensated according to international standards because the KKH is an international route between two countries, being constructed through the land of Gilgit – Baltistan.
Leaders of the action committee should urge their supporters to not take law into their hands because it would harm the noble cause.