September 13th, 2020

By Umar Bacha


For the last 40 days, locals of Upper Kohistan’s Harban Bhasha area have been protesting at the Shetial area holding sit-ins every day in the evening for three hours.

Harban Bhasha’s residents are the victims of a multi-billion dollar 45 Megawatt project of the Diamar-Bhasha dam. They launched the movement in 2011 and are still continuing but the government has been reluctant to accept their demands.

A retired subedar of the Pakistan Army, Hakim Khan says he has been walking five to six miles every day just to participate in the sit-in on Karakoram Highway in Shetial, Harban to claim his and his community’s rights from the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) which would be in the form of compensation for their lands and jobs for their youth.

“We are here on the road to demand our rights and will not step back from the agitation unless we take them,” he says. “I was in Army in 1972 and I retired in 1992 but the government pushed us against the wall for their vested interest. If Wapda and the government do not accept our demands we will permanently block the KKH for an indefinite period,” he said.

In 2011 the government of the time had constituted a commission headed by Justice Tanveer Ahmed Khan who in 2016 issued the commission report by declaring the disputed boundary areas as part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Kohistan district with the references of the 1952 map and old times FIRs but the government has yet to implement the commission report due to which these people again came on to the roads.

They say, there are no job opportunities for the local youth, and project companies hire outsiders for all positions which is a serious injustice.

Asadullah Quraishi, founder of the movement and local leader, said that local people had thought that the execution of Bhasha Dam would bring prosperity and change in their lives but despite agreements made with Wapda these are yet to be implemented.

He says, a commission report was also issued on the boundary issue but it was not implemented. Their rights are legal and fundamental rights.

They have also threatened the government if their demands were not met they will halt work on the country’s top hydropower project