Kashmir: Karakoram Highway blocked as protesters demand compensation promised for Diamer Bhasha Dam

Jammu & Kashmir POK - Pakistan Occupied Kashmir

Dawn News reports: Affectees of Gilgit-Baltistan’s Diamer Bhasha Dam blocked the Karakoram Highway (KKH) on Wednesday in protest against Wapda for failure to pay compensation promised to them for leaving their lands for the dam’s construction.

The protesters were demanding pending payments for the Chula (stove) Package which entitles them to financial assistance before departure from their houses acquired for the Dasu hydropower project.

The action committee of the Diamer Bhasha Dam called the sit-in and blocked the KKH, stranding hundreds of vehicles on both sides of the road at the Gechi area of Chilas in GB’s Diamer district.

Diamer Deputy Commissioner (DC) Captain (retd) Muhammad Arif told Dawn.com that the protesters blocked the road and demanded their compensation payments pending with Wapda.

He said he held negotiations with the demonstrators and told them that he would convey their message to the Wapda chairman and other relevant officials, adding that the chairman’s visit was also expected next week but the protesters did not agree.

DC Arif said the road was opened for half an hour and stranded vehicles crossed the blockade but was blocked again as the protesters demanded the Wapda chairman meet them at the site of the sit-in.

Atiullah and Muhammad Iqbal, who led the sit-in, told the administration’s delegation that they would not leave the road until their demands were met and continued their protest.

Iqbal told Dawn.com via phone that the affectees were demanding Chula payments for a long time but the administration and Wapda officials “paid no heed” to their demands.

He said the affectees had sacrificed their lands to the country and in return, the government did not bother to provide the Chula payments to over 800 affectees which were promised to them in writing.

Tourists travelling to and from Gilgit Baltistan-Islamabad were stranded on both sides of the blocked road.

Muhammad Jamil, a passenger travelling to Hunza Gilgit, told Dawn.com that children and families were stranded on the road for six hours.

He added that they were able to leave after the roads were opened by the protesters, who had asked them to leave immediately as the road had to be blocked again.