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Regi Lalma residents protest eviction

LANDI KOTAL, Sept 11: Hundreds of residents of Regi Lalma area in Peshawar staged a protest demonstration at Karkhano Market on Wednesday and blocked Peshawar-Torkham Highway for three hours against their eviction from their homes.

The protesters including women and children burnt tyres on the road and blocked it to every kind of traffic. Led by Salma Afridi, they alleged that army was evicting them from their property.

The protesters were also holding placards and banners inscribed with the slogans against their eviction from the area. The traffic on Peshawar-Torkham Highway remained suspended from 2m to 5pm.

Speaking on the occasion, Ms Afridi said that they had been living in Regi Lalma for decades and owned the property. She alleged that army wanted to occupy the private land where 1,500 houses and 800 shops had been built before Pakistan came into existence.

“It is against our culture and religion to drag women and children out of their homes and demolish their residences at nighttime,” Ms Salma said.

Alia Khan, another woman protester, alleged that army violated the court orders and human right laws. She said that provincial government was not serious to address the issue of occupation of their property by army.

“I have four children and army locked my home three days ago. Now I am living under the open sky in Karkhano Market,” Ms Khan said and literally burst into tears.

Haji Mujahid Shinwari, the spokesperson for Regi Lalma Committee, said that at least 5,000 people were evicted from their homes and their shops at gunpoint. He said that army disconnected supply of water, electricity and gas to their homes and shops four days ago to compel them leave their property. Later, MNA Engineer Hamidul Haq along with local elders reached the spot and held talks with the protesters. He assured them of peaceful settlement of the Regi Lalma property dispute.

The MNA also promised the protesters that he would take up the issue in the provincial assembly and hold meeting with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan in that regard.

He pledged that the issue of Regi Lalma property dispute would be resolved till September 15 after holding talks with army officials.

The protesters told the MNA that they would resume their protest and block Peshawar-Torkham Highway if he failed to resolve the issue.

It is pertinent to mention that army claims ownership of the land and has issued notices to the residents of the area to vacate it.