IDPs vow to prolong and expand the strike if demands are not met
Shishkat, May 17: Boat service in the dammed Hunza River remained halted for the third consecutive day, as protesters in Gojal Valley blocked the river with metallic wires, used as main electricity transmission lines.
The protesters are affectees of the lake formed on the Hunza River after a mega landslide at Attabad that killed 19 people and displaced at least 140 families from Attabad and Sarat.
The lake buildup led to partial or complete inundation of four villages, a 22 kilometer long stretch of the Karakuram Highway and several important bridges.
The lake affectees complain that the government has failed to address their rehabilitation demands. They also complain that funds approved and transferred by the federal government have not been paid to the IDPs, who are living with relatives or in temporary shelters for the past 15 months.
Former Technocrat member of the GBLA, Alwaiz Ali Murad, has condemned the government and administration for harassing the IDPs, instead of rehabilitating them. There were reports that DG Rasheed of the Gilgit – Baltistan Disaster Management Agency had threatened the protesters saying that Rangers will be deployed in the region to quell the protests.
MLA Mutabiat Shah, on the other hand, has yesterday said that it is the peoples’ right to protest in a ‘democratic era’.
Oblivious to political reassurances, appeals and administrative threats, the protesters have said that all commercial activity at the lake will remain suspended till resolution of their issues, which includes “disbursement of 600,000 rupees each among 457 affected households”, and transfer to the dammed Hunza River’s spillway expansion contract to a more ‘capable’ firm, instead of the Frontier Works Organization (FWO).
The recent wave of protests have drawn immense support from all parts of Hunza Valley, in particular, and Hunza – Nagar district, general.
The IDPs have threatened that the protests will be extended to Karachi, Lahore, Gilgit and Islamabad if their demands were not met on priority basis.
The government and administration circles on the other hand maintain that there are discrepancies in the IDPs’ data and the verification is taking a lot of time.
According to some sources, the lists of 457 affected households were generated by Tehsil officials, who have, reportedly, exaggerated the scale of losses in many cases, by taking bribes and commissions from the affected people. In particular, a Patwari’s name is being taken who was functioning at the Gulmit Tehsil during the disaster, who has allegedly raised expectations of the IDPs for his personal financial gains, by preparing exaggerated lists of affectees.
Commuters and trade suffer
Aliabad/Sost: Three day long blockade of boat service in the dammed Hunza River has caused severe problems for commuters, while also inflicting heavy losses to trade with China.
Hundreds of passengers and tourists willing to travel to China are stuck in Aliabad, waiting for the strike to end. Hundreds of trucks, reportedly, also remain stuck at Sost Dry Port.