AJK PM flies to Neelum as opposition threatens protest

Updated January 18, 2020


MUZAFFARABAD: Tourists visit Pir Chinasi after snowfall on Friday.—INP
MUZAFFARABAD: Tourists visit Pir Chinasi after snowfall on Friday.—INP

MUZAFFARABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider on Friday flew into Neelum Valley to have firsthand information about relief and rehabilitation activities there.

Accompanied by Legislative Assembly Speaker Shah Ghulam Qadir and Minister for Relief, Disaster Management and Civil Defence Ahmed Raza Qadri, the AJK premier assured the affected people in Surgan area of all-out support from the government after an official briefed him on losses and steps taken so far with regard to relief and rehabilitation.

“I am personally monitoring the ongoing relief and rehabilitation activities…Together the government, administration and army will leave no stone unturned to ensure your complete rehabilitation,” PM Haider told the affected people.

He lauded the police and army personnel for assisting affected people in rescue efforts and for taking part in relief and rehabilitation activities.

He declared that relief goods and compensatory allowance would be provided to the victims at their doorsteps.

Mr Haider said road links would be cleared of snow and restored for traffic immediately after the end of snowy spell.

“Though we cannot fight a natural calamity, yet we can at least minimise losses through better planning and preparedness,” he said.

On the other hand, speaking at a press conference in Muzaffarabad, leaders of the Amn (peace) Committee Neelum (ACN) threatened to launch a massive protest against the government’s “act of leaving the victims at the mercy of fate”.

The ACN is a loose alliance of different leaders belonging to the valley, mostly from the opposition parties and groups.

“First they fell victim to Indian shelling and now they are victims of snowfall and avalanches who have been left at the mercy of fate,” said the CAN leaders who included former AJK ministers Mian Abdul Waheed, Haji Gul-i-Khandan and Mufti Mansoor of the PPP, PTI and Muslim Conference, respectively.

Stressing that both the AJK and federal governments should play an effective role in rehabilitation of survivors, they said: “We need a permanent, and not temporary, solution to the problems of Neelum Valley people.”

The ACN leaders demanded launch of regular helicopter service and deployment of sufficient heavy duty machines in their area to keep its main and link roads open during extreme weather conditions.

They rejected compensation of Rs150,000 for a deceased victim as a “joke” and called for a substantial increase in the amount.

Earlier, separately addressing a press conference, some ruling PML-N leaders from the valley had alleged that the opposition parties were indulging in politics on this tragedy.

“Neelum Valley has suffered enormous loss in this calamity, but instead of taking any practical steps to support victims, every opposition leader wants to take a helicopter ride,” said Iqbal Mughal, spokesperson for the PML-N in Neelum Valley.

“The government is using all available resources to mitigate the sufferings of affected population. The opposition should not do politics on the lives of people,” he said.

When ACN leaders were asked about PML-N leaders’ views, they said that those accusing them of doing politics on the tragedy were “sycophants and enemies of Neelum Valley.”

Meanwhile, Jamaat-i-Islami AJK has called upon the government to provide Rs2 million as compensation to each deceased, Rs1m to each injured person and as much amount for each destroyed house, in addition to free timber for construction of a new house.

“People of Neelum Valley are the first defence line of the country. They have already suffered too much loss in ceasefire violations by Indian troops. They must be compensated and rehabilitated generously,” said JIAJK’s deputy chief Shaikh Aqeelur Rehman.

“Instead of merely paying lip service, the governments in Islamabad and Muzaffarabad should take practical steps that are seen on the ground,” he added.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2020