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Over 10 feet of land: Locals in Thore Valley stop construction on Bhasha dam

By Shabbir Mir

GILGIT: The people in Thore Valley of Diamer district in Gilgit-Baltistan forcibly stopped construction work near Diamer-Bhasha Dam on Thursday to protest “encroachment by Kohistan on their land”.

An official familiar with the matter told The Express Tribune, “The work on Wapda Colony and Karakoram Highway has now been stopped by the people of Thore Valley.”

He added, “The move has come in reaction to similar protest by the people of Harban in Kohistan earlier this week.” Construction work was stopped by the people of Harban on the realignment of Karakoram Highway at Shatial, near
Chilas, G-B.

Bone of contention

The nearly 10-kilometre stretch of land extending to both sides of Basri check post has been demarcated for acquisitions made as part of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam project.

According to the official, district administrations on both sides of the territory have been engaging with enraged locals at their respective ends in a bid to convince them to avoid friction. “However that didn’t work as deputy commissioners don’t have power to settle the dispute,” said the official.

The issue flared up once again after a jirga in January 2014 brokered a truce between the tribes in G-B and Kohistan who last year fought over the land and subsequently lost seven people from both sides. The jirga convinced the warring tribespeople to bid farewell to arms and leave the boundary dispute for the government to resolve.

Usman Ahmad, who is the deputy commissioner in Diamer confirmed work on the KKH was stopped by the people of Thore Valley. “This happened and we have communicated it to the higher authorities,” he told The Express Tribune.

Land encroachment

The disputed land, which separates Kohistan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa from the G-B region, has been a bone of contention between Diamer and Harban. 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, after the jirga, the federal government stepped in to resolve the issue. The matter was referred to a boundary commission, constituted by the Supreme Court, for a permanent settlement. Rangers were stationed on the disputed territory to defuse tension till a decision was reached.

In February 2014, locals took to the streets and blocked KKH after residents of Kohistan 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 over a dozen others wounded.

On March 13, 2014, the G-B Assembly unanimously passed a resolution against K-P for encroaching on land set aside for a proposed dam site. The house called for the immediate settlement of the boundary dispute with K-P through a boundary commission.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th,  2015.

 

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