Balakot dam victims block road in protest

Tourists, travellers stranded in Kaghan for the whole day


Zulfikar Ali August 23, 2022
Balakot dam victims stage a sit-in and block the Kaghan Highway, causing inconvenience to commuters. PHOTO: EXPRESS

BALAKOT:

The affectees of Suki Kinari Hydropower Project on Monday staged a protest rally and a sit-in and blocked the main Kaghan road to all sort of traffic for the entire day, causing inconvenience to commuters and motorists.

The protesters said that they wanted a market price for the land and rights for the locals but the government was not fulfilling commitments despite accepting their charter of demands,

As a result of the protest and a sit-in on Kaghan road in Paras, thousands of tourists and travellers were stranded for the entire day as protesters did not allow vehicles to pass. The Kaghan highway remained closed from 10 am till late at night.

The protesters also chanted slogans against federal and provincial governments and in support of their demands.

Addressing the participants of the sit-in, action committee chairman Syed Tanveer Shah and members Syed Tahir Shah, Syed Azhar Shah, Jibran Shah, Syed Junaid Ali Qasim, former MPA Mian Ziaur Rehman and others said that the victims were not being given their rights and neither they were being given fair compensation for the land nor the people, who were left out in the 2017 survey were being resurveyed.

They said that the payment for damaged houses was also being carried out according to the survey of 2012 while the construction cost of houses has ballooned and tripled in 2022.

Tanveer Shah said that the people of Balakot also have the right to get jobs and they should be given the right on a priority basis.

The speakers said that “we tried to negotiate with the deputy commissioner umpteenth times but he neither removes the concerns of the victims nor bothers to meet the victims and the people were forced to take to the streets.

A heavy contingent of police was also deployed at the venue of the protest. The Kaghan highway remained closed throughout the day due to which tourists going to Kaghan valley and returning to and from Gilgit-Baltistan faced severe problems. However, the protesters allowed patients to travel.

The government had acquired over 8,000 kanals of land for the Balakot hydropower project being built on the Kunhar River downstream.

The executive committee of the National Economic Council had sanctioned $750 million for the project last year.

Hotel association set up

A hotel association has been established in Shogran to promote tourism and provide better facilities to the tourists.

Sheristan Khan, a prominent figure in the tourism sector, has been elected as its president while Syed Saad Ali Shah as the general secretary and Abdul Rasheed as vice president and Muneeb Shah and Mazhar Hussain as its media coordinators. The newly elected cabinet has resolved to make Shogran the best tourist destination in the country.

Speaking on the occasion, Khan said that nature has blessed Shogran with immense beauty,making it the best tourist destination in the country.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Khan said that tourism is the only industry which not only boosts the local economy, but the provincial and federal governments can also earn revenue in million annually in the form of various taxes. "We will try to make Shogran the best tourist destination in the country.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2022.

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