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Kohistan and G-B: Tribal elders settle boundary dispute

ABBOTTABAD: People living on the borders of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in the Kohistan district have finally buried the hatchet resolving their decade long dispute over a stretch of land between the two regions.

Family members of the seven people who died and 11 who were injured in a 2014 clash in the region also publicly pardoned those who had caused the trouble.

The eight-kilometre long stretch of disputed land, which separates Kohistan from the region, has since 2006 been a bone of contention between Thor Valley, Diamer in Gilgit-Baltistan and Harban Nala, Kohistan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The status of the land remains uncertain and has been the cause of considerable unrest in Diamer and Kohistan as it involves compensation and royalty in the long run.

In January 2014, the federal government stepped in to resolve the issue. The matter was referred to a boundary commission, constituted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, for a permanent settlement. Rangers were stationed on the disputed territory to defuse tension till a decision was reached.

A jirga brokered a 40-day ceasefire between warring tribes in Kohistan and G-B. It convinced the warring tribesmen to bid farewell to arms and leave the boundary dispute for the government to resolve.

However, in February 2014, locals on the G-B side took to the streets and blocked the Karakoram Highway (KKH) after residents of Kohistan forcibly took away over 400 goats from a resident of Diamer. The goats had been grazing on a swath of land to which both regions lay claim.

Widespread protests triggered by the incident added fuel to the fire. The dispute took a violent turn when clashes erupted between both sides, leaving seven people dead and 11  wounded. The government even formed a one-member commission to determine who owned the stretch of land, but the commission’s report was never made public.

On Friday, tribal elders from Kohistan and G-B sat down in a grand jirga and finally agreed to settle their differences.

They agreed to give a free hand to the two governments to take legal action against those who did not accept the grand jirga’s decision.

Asadullah Qureshi, a spokesperson for the Diamer-Bhasha Dam Action Committee, the jirga was held at Basri Nala and a number of elders and lawmakers from the region including a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNA from Kohistan Sarzamin Khan, MPA Abdul Sattar Khan, former MNA Malik Aurangzeb Khan, Malik Misar Khan and dozens of tribals from Kohistan and G-B attended the Jirga.

He added that during the jirga, family members of the of seven men who had been killed and 11 who had been injured in the armed clash between tribespeople from Harban Bhasha in Kohistan and Thordas in Diamer, publicly forgave each other for the deaths and injuries. They also agreed not to pick up guns against each other again, declaring that their enmity had now been converted into friendship. They also announced that they had resolved the boundary dispute on their own and details of the resolution would be announced in the next few days.

Speaking on this occasion, Khan lauded the efforts of tribal elders who had first brokered the ceasefire and had now managed to bring the two sides to the negotiation table. He added that those who disagreed with the resolution of the boundary dispute would be dealt with as per the law.

When approached for comments the Deputy Superintendent Police Dasu Altaf Khan also confirmed the development.

The federal government had also announced a single member judicial commission during 2014 for determining that which side exactly own the disputed territory however the commission report has yet to be made public by the govt.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2016.

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