BAJAUR: The opposition parties and civil society on Saturday protested against the government’s alleged plan to drop Bajaur, Dir and Chitral districts from the western CPEC route.

A large number of workers, traders and social activists held a demonstration in the Khar Bazaar, the district headquarters of Bajaur.

JI Bajaur chief Maulana Waheed Gul, PPP district president Aurangzeb, ANP leader Sayed Sadiq Akbar, JUI-F’s Said Badshah, PML-N’s Gul Kareem Khan, Qaumi Watan Party’s Mohammad Hayian, Bajaur Youth Jirga president Waji Ali Khan, former MNA Sahibzada Haroon Rasheed and others addressed the protest.

The speakers, who had worn black armbands, expressed grave concern over the exclusion of Bajaur from the CPEC’s western route.

They pointed out that the then federal government had promised to include Bajaur in the CPEC after merger of former Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Activists take to streets in Bajaur, Dir and Chitral

However, they said according to the reports Bajaur had been excluded from the CPEC’s western route due to unknown reasons.

The speakers termed the step a bid to keep the region backward. They slammed the local lawmakers for not raising the issue in the assembly.

They warned to hold protest demonstrations outside the residences of lawmakers in Bajaur if they did not play their due role in that regard. They also warned to observe a complete shutter down strike across the district during the upcoming visit of Chief Minister Mahmood Khan to the region if their demand was not addressed before his visit.

In Lower Dir, the opposition parties observed a black day to record protest against the alleged dropping of Chackdara-Dir-Chitral route from the CPEC.

Jamaat-i-Islami’s Lower Dir chapter had arranged the protest, which was attended by workers and leaders of all opposition parties, traders, lawyers and civil society members.

JI Lower Dir chief Aizazul Mulk Afkari, former MNA and chief of Dir Qaumi Jirga Sahibzada Mohammad Yaqoob Khan, PPP district president Nawabzada Mehmood Zeb Khan, former provincial minister Bakht Baidar Khan, JUI-F emir Maulana Sirajuddin, ANP’s Malik Mohammad Zeb, president Timergara traders union Haji Anwaaruddin, PML-N’s Malik Jehanzeb, former district bar president Jehan Bahader and others spoke on the occasion.

They said the previous PML-N government had approved Chackdara-Dir-Chitral CPEC route and even funds for it had been allocated in the PSDP, but the incumbent PTI government had dropped the project, depriving the people of Chitral, Dir and Bajur districts of its benefits.

The speakers said restoration of the CPEC route was a matter of life and death for millions of people of the said districts.

In Chitral, civil society and political parties’ activists took out protest processions from different bazaars of the Chitral city against the exclusion of Chakdara-Chitral route from the CPEC. The processions converged into a big meeting at Atalique Chowk.

The heads of various political parties and civil society organisations, including former district nazim Maghfirat Shah, Maulana Abdur Rahman, Saleem Khan, Niaz A Niazi Advocate, Shabbir Ahmed, Eidul Hussain and others, addressed the meeting, and warned the government of widespread protests in Dir and Chitral if the road was not included in the CPEC.

They said exclusion of the project from CPEC had shocked the people of Chitral and Dir as they had pinned high hopes on it since it was approved during the JCC meeting of Pakistan and China three years ago.

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2020