By Shabbir Mir
GILGIT: The families affected by Karakoram Highway upgrade project in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) have given a one-month ultimatum to the government for payment of outstanding dues.
“We will block the traffic on the highway from April 10 onwards,” said representatives of the affected families while addressing a press conference in Gilgit.
The press conference was addressed by Jehangir Khan, Numberdar Shifa, Haji Ibrahim and Kasheer who are members of ‘KKH affectees committee’, a body formed to fight for the rights of displaced people.
“It’s been seven years since we lost our lands but the government isn’t interested in paying us the compensation,” they claimed, amid threats to mobilize all the communities involved to ensure a successful strike.
They said they visited many government offices over the years but to no avail as the red tape was the best tool being used by the government to deny people their rights.
Karakoram Highway was upgraded from Raikot Bridge in Diamer to Khunjrab near China border from 2008 onwards. The project was completed in the next three to five years with cooperation from China but people who lost their lands are yet to be compensated. “This is the height of injustice,” said Khan. “Enough is enough, we will not keep silent anymore.”
Staging of protests on KKH for compensation have been quite frequent over the years but the issue lingers on. The latest protest demonstration was held in November last year in Sost town where hundreds of people blocked the highway for several hours, disrupting traffic between the two neighbouring countries. The protestors alleged National Highway Authority for ‘willfully’ denying the locals their rights for the past eight years.