MUZAFFARABAD: Police on Saturday baton-charged a group of protesters and injured four of them as they tried to intercept a convoy of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider during his maiden visit to Bhimber district.
As Haider’s convoy approached the Bab-e-Kashmir Bridge – which connects Bhimber city to Samhani – he found that hundreds of land victims of the proposed Bhimber Industrial Zone (BIZ) had gathered there.
The furious crowd of protesters wanted to block the AJK premier’s motorcade and mark their protest against alleged irregularities in the allotment of their lands.
However, police used batons and fired tear gas at the protesters in a bid to disperse them. As a result, four BIZ land victims were injured.
The injured were taken to the District Headquarters Hospital Bhimber. Three of them were discharged after they were administered first aid and basic medical treatment. The fourth, however, was admitted but doctors, however, described his condition as stable.
The protesters said that they wanted to speak with the AJK prime minister so that matters related to their lands could be resolved.
“We have been requesting the prime minister’s personal staff to arrange a meeting with him [Raja Farooq Haider] for the last three days but in vain,” claimed a protester.
“On Saturday, we decided to gather by the roadside to seek his attention…. We voted for him to listen to the people and solve our problems, but the district administration used force to disperse us.”
The protesting land victims were of the view that nobody had a right to grab their land by force or by unlawful tactics. “Our demands are simple, investigate the issue and take action against the revenue officers who allotted our land to others, and return our lands,” they said.
One of the victims said that the “way Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had opted to listen to us was unfortunate, undemocratic and shameful.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader and former AJK legislative assembly speaker Chaudhry Anwarul Haq accused senior minister Tariq Farooq of suggesting AJK premier to avoid meeting with the real owners of the land.
“Farooq has grabbed 150 kanals of land with the help of AJK’s revenue department,” he alleged while addressing a press conference in Bhimber.
The PPP leader further alleged that “real land owners of Mohra Sadha and Moza Sairla wanted to present Haider with the fake papers allegedly prepared by the minister through which he received a share from the Rs12 billion earmarked by the federal government for setting up an industrial zone in Bhimber under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.”
Haq added that he had credible evidence that the minister had forged papers to receive money from the project.
The former AJK legislative assembly speaker urged the federal government to take notice of the issue and requested it to provide money only to the real owners of the land.
Farooq, meanwhile, dismissed the allegations, terming them baseless.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2017.