Disgruntled by the non-payment of compensation, over a hundred villagers of Thore valley on Wednesday threatened to bulldoze all structures of Diamer-Bhasha Dam.
Talking to the media at the Gilgit Press Club on Wednesday, Mohammad Bakhtiar, a local resident of Thore valley accused the administration of “cheating and depriving the villagers of their legitimate compensation”. Bakhtiar, who led the villagers on a 150 kilometre trip to Gilgit to apprise media of their woes, warned that if complete compensation amount was not paid to them, they will dismantle all structures of Diamer-Bhasha Dam built so far and will expel the labourers from the site.
The villagers accused officials of the district administration of depriving over 30,000 people approximately Rs1.5 billion by illegally changing the status of their lands from cultivable to uncultivable.
The charged villagers blocked roads outside the press club for some time, chanted slogans against the deputy commissioner and Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) officials and demanded an impartial judicial inquiry into the matter. “We do not trust the government officials to conduct the inquiry. We want a powerful judicial panel to probe the case and expose all those who have looted billions of rupees out of it,” said Bakhtiar.
The villagers said they are being paid according to an award prepared in 2009, which fails to account for the increase in the value of the land or the level of inflation during the past three years.
Thore Youth Organisation President Saeed Ahmed said that the Chilas administration handed over cheques for compensation to the villagers without informing them of any details. “Do they take us to be fools? We want to be told if these amounts are for our lands, houses or orchards,” he remarked.
Another local resident of Thore village, Malik Gulam said, “We will go down fighting but will not allow our lands to be taken at throwaway prices.” He claimed that in Kohistan, the government paid 300 times the amount of compensation for lands which are far inferior to their land.
In 2010, at least two people were killed and three others wounded when protestors clashed with the police over non-payment of compensation.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2012.
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