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Chitral Scouts stop 450 families from entering Afghanistan

CHITRAL: Chitral Scouts stopped 450 families from Darosh, Chitral who began their march towards Afghanistan on Wednesday to protest against the government’s failure to compensate them after the October 26, 2015 earthquake.

Insiders privy to the development told The Express Tribune, the scouts stopped the protesters at Mir Khani Post, situated 20 kilometres away from Chitral city. Negotiation between protesters and personnel of the Chitral Scouts were under way till this report was filed.

State of deprivation

A day earlier, 450 families from the town had told journalists the government had failed to compensate them and repair infrastructural damage caused by the temblor. The families said their grievances have not been addressed and they have no option but to march to Afghanistan and demand their rights.

The protesters had assembled on Main Road in Darosh on Wednesday morning. They belonged to Domail, Khair Abad, Khani Paraw and other villages of Chitral.

The demonstrators embarked on their journey towards Kunar, Afghanistan. The protest was led by Haji Muhtaram Shah, Qari Nizamuddin, Salahuddin, Abdul Bari and Shehzada Ziaur Rahman. Pakistan Peoples Party Darosh President Sher Jawan was also part of the demonstration.

Rude interruption

Soon after the protesters were stopped at Mir Khani Post, the protesters held a sit-in and demanded they be allowed to proceed towards Kunar, Afghanistan.

When contacted by The Express Tribune, Bari confirmed the Chitral Scouts did not allow them to proceed beyond Mir Khani post. “We are not being allowed to enter Afghanistan,” he said. “We have decided to hold a sit-in on the road and will stay here till we are allowed to proceed.”

According to Bari, there is a strong likelihood that they will be able to resume their journey towards Afghanistan on Thursday morning.

“Many of the protesters are either old or suffering from illnesses,” he said. “If anything happens to them, the government will be held responsible.”

Bari added they had repeatedly asked the Chitral Scouts to allow to them to enter Afghanistan.

“We told them that we had been suffering for several months since the earthquake,” he said. “They don’t realise we are being cheated through hollow slogans and tall claims.”

Bari said the quake-affected population has been compelled to march towards Afghanistan as the government and the district administration of Chitral has failed to take steps to address their grievances.

“The administration has conducted multiple surveys and prepared lists to assist distribution of relief goods,” he said. “However, assistance is being provided on the basis of favouritism.”

Scope for dialogue

Darosh Assistant Commissioner Basharat Ahmad told The Express Tribune, Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) has stopped distributing compensation cheques.

“However, the march towards Afghanistan is unjust,” he said. “The problem could easily be resolved through dialogue.” The AC said Darosh is not the only town affected by the October 26 earthquake.  “Similar demands are also being made by the affected population throughout Chitral district,” he said. “Over 5,000 applications are still pending and the district administration needs Rs70 million to address these requests.”

Reeling in the aftermath

Locals in Shangla are still reeling in the aftermath of the heavy rains and floods as many roads have been damaged.

A resident told The Express Tribune, PDMA officials have not visited the affected areas even though a month has passed since the rains and flood. He said PDMA has stopped local authorities for working in the area and the district management is helpless in this situation.

Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and K-P Assembly Asad Qaiser have visited the areas. However, locals are still awaiting government aid.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2016.

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