Residents of Battagram's Gajborai area once again halted construction work on the multi-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in protest over non-payment of compensation for their land.

Nearly 1,000 locals have been affected by construction in the area.

A 25 person CPEC Action Committee ─ including Anwar Baig, former superintendent of police Riaz Khan, Gul Muhammad tehsil council member, JI provincial deputy general secretary Muhammad Rafique, Taj Nazeer, Molana Attaur Rehman, Niaz Muhammad, Toti Rehman, Rustam Khan and Tehsil Naib Nazim ─ met with the deputy commissioner and visited a Chinese base camp at Kuzabanda and an Army base camp in the Chapargram area, and asked the relevant authorities to stop further construction work on the CPEC project from Kansai to Chanjal until their demands were fulfilled.

"We were not taken on board, nor were we given a single penny in compensation. The district administration has issued us letters to vacate houses, which will be demolished for coming in the way of the project, but we have nowhere else to live, nor have we been provided tents," jirga member Muhammad Rafiq said.

He said that a month ago, during a meeting of the jirga with various officials, including the district administration, National Highway Authority, district nazim and others, the officials had committed to beginning disbursement of compensation before July 5 but had failed to deliver on their promises.

Former superintendent of police Riaz Khan said that the affectees had waited for the government's response but their reaction had been "very disappointing".

He said that no one was against the multi-billion dollar project, but the government itself was forcing people to come out onto the streets and oppose the project in order to get their due rights.

Muhammad Rafique criticised the government for not following through on its promises and noted that although the mega project is a game changer for the people, the delay tactics would raise questions regarding its credibility.

The participants of the meeting also claimed that the area from Kas Pul to Chanjal is commercial land and that the government should pay compensation equivalent to the commercial market value of the land and houses as they had in the other districts of Mansehra, Abbottabad and Haripur.

Work on the project was halted in the early hours of Friday, and Chinese workers were asked to cease their activities until the demands of the locals were met.

Deputy Commissioner Battagram Sardar Haroon, when contacted by phone, told Dawn that after the deadline had expired, the affectees had stopped construction work on the CPEC project in protest over non-payment of compensation for their land.

He added that negotiations were underway with the jirga committee, where the affectees, stakeholders, District Nazim Attaur Rehman, the district police officer, NHA collector and Chinese officials were present, and that work on the project would resume after the meeting.



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