As a pre-emptive measure, the federal government will soon deploy security forces along the disputed territory of the Diamer Bhasha dam site. The ownership of the land stretched over eight kilometres is disputed between the people of Diamer and Kohistan.
Officials from the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan told The Express Tribune that a letter has been written to the interior ministry asking the federal government to deploy forces in the disputed territory to avoid any clashes between the two parties.
Dispute between the two parties had worsened in the past month after the people of Kohistan blocked the Karakorum Highway for days warning to march toward Diamer claiming the dam site.
A source in the ministry of water and power stated that this boundary dispute between Khyber-Pakhtunkwa and G-B might lead to a delay in the construction of the mega dam.
“The dispute will make it difficult for the government to formally start working on the construction of the dam without settling the boundary dispute between the two parties,” said a senior official of WAPDA. In a high-level ministerial meeting, held at the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan (KAGB), it was decided that security forces will be deployed along the disputed boundaries.
The ministers — Chaudhry Barjis Tahir, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Riaz Pirzada, Information Minister Pervez Rashid, federal secretary KAGA, chief secretaries of GB and K-P— also decided that a neutral commission should be constituted to resolve the matter.
The issue arose after the government announced compensations for the families affected by the construction of the dam.
Following the announcement, people from Kohistan claimed that the area upstream up till the Basari check post near Chilas, fell under Kohistan’s jurisdiction. On the other hand, locals of the Diamer district maintained that the area downstream up to Harban belonged to them.
Interestingly, the disputed area is part of an unsettled territory without proper revenue records. However, historically, the disputed territory has administratively remained under the control of the G-B administration and its forces have been deployed at the Basari check post for many decades.
The government later deployed security forces on both the Basari and Harban check posts to deal with any untoward situation. The final decision on the issue will be made by the proposed commission.
Both the sides reject each other’s claims over the area, where the powerhouse of the dam is likely to be constructed.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2013.