There were tears and sobs, as people in Balakot gathered on Saturday to remember those who died in the devastating 2005 earthquake.
Business activities remained suspended for half of the day, as local traders and shopkeepers kept their stores closed in remembrance of their loved ones killed in the disaster.
People gathered at the mass grave of 84 students of Garlat Government High School for Boys (GGHSB), where they offered prayers for the deceased students. A Quran Khwani (recitation of Quran) was held, which was attended by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Industries Ahmed Hussain Shah.
Shah said that the government is giving top priority to the New Balakot City, as the resettlement of over 5,000 families hailing from Garlat and Balakot has been delayed for six years now.
He said the dispute with the owners and occupants of the project’s site have been resolved, and the affected villagers will soon be given their entitlements. He also announced Rs1 million for the construction of a memorial site for the deceased students in the vicinity of GGHSB.
Another Quran Khwani was held at Syed Ahmed Shaheed Mosque in Balakot, which was attended by the State Health Minister Shah Jehan Yousaf and former member provincial assembly Mazhar Ali Qasim. People prayed for the earthquake victims; some criticised the performance of Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority in the region.
Jehan said that the federal government is aware of the hardships of the victims and it is “trying to accelerate the reconstruction process”.
The hillside town of Balakot, comprising 12 union councils with a population of 30,000 people, was completely destroyed by the earthquake on October 8, 2005. Over 90 per cent of the houses were reduced to muddy smears. The survivors will be relocated to the New Balakot City, currently being developed near Mansehra.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2011.