Hundreds of people affected by the raising of Mangla Dam Project staged protests on Thursday after the government failed to give a schedule for completion of their rehabilitation.
They staged a sit-in outside the office of Mangla Dam Resettlement Organisation (MDRO) and said they will not let the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) fill the dam to its highest level of 1,242 feet unless the 100,000 affected people are shifted to alternative residential sites. They gave the government till Eidul Fitr to complete the rehabilitation process.
Last week, heads of various action committees fighting for the rights of the affected families had given the government till August 9 to give a schedule for completion of their rehabilitation. In case of failure, they had warned to launch protest demonstrations to press their demands. The deadline was issued after a junior minister of water and power declared in the Senate that it was not possible for the government to allot residential plots to 8,000 extended families of the affected people.
On Thursday, the affected people hoisted black flags in front of the MDRO office as a symbol of their indignation and warned that they will lay siege to the offices of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister, Wapda and MDRO and convert them into cattle sheds if they were not provided lands and accommodation in recompense for theirs.
Led by heads of the action committees, the protesters shouted slogans against Wapda, MDRO, the AJK prime minister and the government of Pakistan for failing to rehabilitate them.
A large number of police contingents were deployed in and outside the office of MDRO and on the adjacent Defence Road to deal with any eventuality.
During the demonstration, head of the action committees maintained that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have rendered many sacrifices for the country but the government has failed to provide them their due rights. They warned that if the government of Pakistan does rehabilitate the affected people soon, it could face “an irreparable loss”.
The speakers also lashed out at the AJK prime minister for failing to perform his duties, adding that he treats their concerns as “minor issues”. They claimed that Wapda first betrayed them in 1967, when Mangla Dam was constructed, and again during raising of the dam.
The speakers included Young Action Forum President Raja Tasleem Anjum and Secretary General Sardar Attique Sadozai, Mirpur District Bar Association President Arshad Mallick, Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz AJK chapter leader Chaudhry Muhammad Saeed, Chaudhry Allah Ditta, Chaudhry Nazarat, Chaudhry Abdul Qayyum, Chaudhry Maroof, Raja Gulraize, and others.
Head of the action committee had earlier stated that half of the affected people have not been compensated. They said that the market value of the lands taken from the locals for the project is much higher than the amount paid to them by Wapda. Moreover, they said that construction of new houses for the affected people in New Mirpur city and four small towns in Islamgarh, Siakh, Chakswari and Dadayal localities have not been completed.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2012.