The long-simmering row between Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) over a strip of land deepened on Thursday when the G-B Assembly unanimously passed a resolution against K-P authorities for alleged encroachment near a proposed dam site.
G-B Minister for Works Bashir Ahmed went a step ahead as he asked the federal government to pack up and choose another place if it is not interested in resolving the issues of the local people.
The resolution came nearly a month after clashes between residents of the Diamer Valley and Kohistan left at least seven people dead and a dozen others injured.
The nearly 10-kilometre stretch of land on both sides of the Basari check post, which separates Kohistan from Gilgit-Baltistan, has long been a bone of contention between Thor Valley, Diamer and Harban Nala, Kohistan. The disputed land is among the areas being demarcated for acquisition for the much-awaited Diamer-Bhasha dam project.
“The land, which is being dubbed disputed, is historically part of G-B,” said Pakistan Peoples Party legislator Ayub Shah, while reading out the resolution that he tabled in the assembly.
The resolution carried the signatures of many legislators including Rehmat Khaliq from Diamer, Wazir Hasan from Baltistan, Mutabiat Shah from Hunza-Nagar and Abdul Hameed from Astor Valley.
The house called for the immediate settlement of G-B’s boundary dispute with K-P through the boundary commission. “We express support with the residents of Diamer and vow to defend every inch of our land.”
The issue had been referred to a boundary commission for permanent settlement and a jirga, constituted by the K-P succeeded in brokering a 40-day ceasefire between the rival Kohistan and Gilgit-Baltistan tribes whose members had clashed over a thorny land dispute. It convinced the warring tribesmen to put down their guns and leave the boundary dispute for the government to resolve.
One member of the jirga had assured the tribes that the government would ensure the boundary commission reaches a decision during this 40-day period starting March 1.
Speaking on the floor of the house, Bashir Ahmed, who was elected from Diamer, accused the K-P government of conspiring against the dam for which residents have sacrificed their land.
“In the past, K-P didn’t allow the Kalabagh dam to be built either and now it wants to sabotage the Diamer-Bhasha dam,” claimed the minister, who is a senior leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid.
Another member of the legislative assembly, Amina Ansari, accused the federal government of ‘criminal negligence’ which triggered the clashes in the first place.
Another member, Rahmat Khaliq, asked the federal government to intervene in the matter to ensure lasting peace between the two regions. “The issue isn’t Diamer’s alone. It is the issue of all of G-B,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Nawaz Khan Naji, a nationalist leader from Ghizer Valley, warned the federal government of the possibility of the dispute escalating because the G-B’s constitutional status was not clearly defined in Pakistan.
Law Minister Ali Madad Sher, responding to a question, said that inquiries against illegal inductions were conducted on the instructions of the chief minister, adding that more inquiries will follow in the days ahead.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2014.