Amid scuffles and protest by the occupants, the Abbottabad Cantonment Board (ACB) launched an anti-encroachment drive on Thursday to clear the Karakoram Highway from illegal encroachments built by influential people, narrowing the busiest road in the area.
Even though the project has been appreciated by local people, the encroachers have expressed resentment over the issue. They have protested against the ACB, attacking officials of anti-encroachment squad.
Following the increasing number of complaints against these encroachments, the ACB sent a team to clear the roads of over ten kiosks, hundreds of extended sheds of shops and an illegally constructed boundary wall of a private school.
Police and eyewitnesses said that the ACB staff was attacked with iron rods by the owner of a welding shop in front of Army Burn Hall College when the squad tried to remove his roadside kiosk. As a result, a member of the anti-encroachment squad Adeel Jadoon, Line Superintendent Muhammad Nawaz and Supervisor Dilnawaz were injured, while three encroachers were also injured during the scuffle.
The encroachers later held a protest against ACB, blocking the Karakoram Highway for over 30 minutes. They chanted slogans against ACB officials. However, the police dispersed them to clear the road for traffic.
The affected owners, including Qaisar Abbasi, Usman and Nasir, while talking to media persons, said they were not informed about the operation, even though the ACB was supposed to serve a written notice to them.
They said a large number of shopkeepers and vendors had suffered huge losses, as they were not given enough time to shift their merchandise to other places.
They also accused ACB officials of discriminating against them, as the encroachments set up by influential people who had greased the palms of authorities were not demolished.
However, ACB Chief Executive Asif Aamir Khan dispelled the notion that the encroachers were not informed prior to the operation. He said the encroachers were repeatedly given “verbal warnings”, adding that the ACB had been forced to take action against them.
Khan explained that during the first phase of the operation, the area between Supply Bazaar and Missile Chowk Jinnahabad was cleared from temporary structures, while in the second phase, which is likely to start very soon, The ACB would clear all encroachments from Missile Chowk to Ayub Medical Complex.
He requested people to cooperate with ACB and remove all encroachments on their own. Otherwise ACB would take action in the same way as it did during the first phase.
Responding to a question, Khan said that there were scores of other encroachers who had occupied ACB’s land and were using it illegally for their business. He assured they will clear all such structures during the campaign.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2011.
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