GILGIT: The boundary dispute at the site of Diamer-Bhasha dam between the residents of Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan and Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has deepened with tribes on both sides refusing to budge from their positions.
The Harban tribe of Kohistan and the Thor tribe of Diamer claim ownership of a piece of land spanning eight kilometres in Gandlo Nala area. People from both sides gathered on the road on Sunday, warning the authorities concerned of dire consequences if a settlement of the dispute could not be worked out soon.
Elders of the Thor tribe held a sit-in outside the deputy commissioner’s office in Chilas against the Harban tribe, accusing it of harassing the GB residents to keep pressure on the government to decide the matter in its favour.
Over 20 elders of Thor and representatives of the Thor Youth Organisation took part in the protest.
Row over Diamer-Bhasha dam site lingering for years
Haji Dilbar Khan, Saeedullah Khan, Fida Khan, Fazalul Haq and others said that Harban tribesmen had been harassing the GB people for the past one week.
They regretted that in the presence of Kohistan police, Harban tribesmen had been blocking the Karakoram Highway (KKH) daily for three hours, stopping GB people from passing through it.
“Armed people are checking GB passengers’ identity cards and hurling life threats at them,” the Thor tribesmen alleged.
The protesters said that travel for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan on the KKH through Kohistan had become risky, accusing the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa administration of not acting against the law-breakers.
They cautioned that the situation had worsened and clashes might erupt if the government did not take timely action. They said personnel of GB Scouts and police had failed to stop criminal activities.
“Historically, the ownership of the disputed area lies with the Thor tribe. We have evidences, but people of Kohistan are trying to deprive us of our land,” said the Thor protesters, adding, “we would not allow that to happen.”
They said, “We would fight for our rights, and cannot compromise on principles.”
The protesters announced that they would not accept the boundary commission’s decision if it did not come in their favour. “We too would start holding protests on KKH if the KP government fails to control the Kohistan people harassing the GB people.”
The boundary commission constituted by the federal government has so far remained unsuccessful in settling the dispute.
Five people lost their lives and several others suffered injuries in armed clashes between the two tribes in February 2014. Personnel of the Frontier Constabulary have been deployed on the disputed territory and authorities have announced a ceasefire.
Umar Farooqi, a resident of Diamer, said the situation in the area was becoming tense by the day.
On the other hand, the Harban tribe has set May 15 for the government to meet its demands. It has threatened to block KKH at various points if their demands were not met.
A local jirga of the Thor tribe has decided to hold demonstrations at KKH if Harban people did not call off their protest.
Four jirgas comprising elders from Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa formed to solve the matter have also failed to find a solution.
Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2016