ABBOTABAD: As the provincial Frontier Highways Authority (FHA) plans to clear Murree Road of encroachments, marking of illegal spaces in Abbottabad and Nathiagali by revenue officials has sparked unrest among traders. Shopkeepers vowed to resist what they believe is a government move to deprive them of their businesses.
Nathiagali Anjuman Tajran President Sardar Jeenda Khan said FHA and revenue officials have marked shops and plazas built on both sides of Nathiagli Bazaar from Mochi Dhara to Pines Mor, adding over 150 shops and 70 eateries have been declared illegal. He said owners have been asked to demolish the encroached spaces within seven days; otherwise the demolition squad will raze their shops to the ground. Shopkeeper Sardar Raheel said 95% of Jamia Masjid Mochi Dhara and Nathiagali Bazaar mosque were also built on encroached land.
Sardar Lal Khan, a councilor from Nathiagali who also runs an eatery, criticised authorities for destroying local businesses. He said if FHA does not change its plan of reclaiming 65 feet of land across the main road, not a single shop or eatery will be left in the bazaar, which will not only deprive locals of livelihood but also dent tourist attractions.
Sardar Sabir, a trader, vowed to resist the move and suggested the government to construct a parallel road to enable traders to keep earning their livelihood.
An FHA official, requesting anonymity, said the encroachment has been carrying on since 1985 and the road has now become so congested that tourists have trouble walking in the bazaar. He said traders will be taken onboard following a meeting with them over the weekend.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2014.