Over 300 villagers staged a protest in Gaise valley on Thursday, demanding judicial inquiry into the deaths of eight people who drowned after the makeshift chairlift they were travelling in plunged into a river two weeks back. The protesters chanted slogans against the government and blocked the Karakoram Highway (KKH) for five hours.
“We want judicial inquiry into the incident and immediate compensation for those who lost their relatives,” said Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly former member Fidaullah. “We condemn the government for the lack of interest in our issues,” said another protester, Dr Bakhtawar.
The protesters reacted strongly over a statement issued by Minister for Works Bashir Ahmed, who maintained that the chairlift fell due to overloading. They maintained that it was not overloading but inefficiency of the government that led to the accident.
On July 15, eight persons died after a makeshift chairlift linking Gaise valley with KKH crashed into a river after the ropes holding it snapped halfway. None of the bodies could be recovered. The improvised chairlift, locally called Ga’raari, was built after the 2010 floods swept away the lone bridge that connected the valley with the highway.
A few days before the accident, locals had lodged a complaint with the executive engineer about the deteriorating condition of the lift, demanding immediate repairs.
The minister, in response, suspended three responsible officials, including the executive engineer, for negligence.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2012.