GUJRAT: Scores of farmers lodged on Friday a strong protest against the decision of land acquisition in three villages by the government for the establishment of Phase-II of the industrial estate in the district.

A huge chunk of land in three villages -- Saroki, Chak Qazian and Sheikh Qureshian -- has been identified by the local administration for establishment of Phase-II of the industrial estate and the acquisition of agricultural land for the purpose.

The protesting farmers gathered near Saroki bridge on the Upper Jhelum Canal where banners inscribed with slogans against what they termed their exploitation by the government through “snatching” their fertile lands were displayed.

A delegation of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led by former federal minister Qamar Zaman Kaira also joined the protesters to express solidarity with them.

Former Punjab finance minister Tanveer Ashraf Kaira, local PPP leader Mian Fakhar Mushtaq Pagganwala, district general secretary Dr Zahid Zaheer and scores of party workers also visited the site proposed for the industrial estate’s Phase-II. The Punjab government had approved the scheme and allocated at least Rs1.3 billion for the project, out of which Rs400 million have been sanctioned in the current development budget.

Speaking to the farmers and the media, Qamar Kaira vowed the PPP would resist the government’s move and raise the issue at every forum, including the assemblies and also move the court.

He said sufficient land was available for the project in Mehsam area on Gujrat city outskirts that was closer to the Sambrial-Kharian motorway and Sialkot International Airport. Mr Kaira blamed that some politically influential elements wanted to develop a housing society in the area by using the infrastructure being developed in the name of industrial area.

However, a senior district administration official said the site for the industrial area had been selected on the proposal of the Gujrat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GtCCI) on the demand of local business community.

He added that in 1992 a site in Channi Hafiz area on the GT Road was selected for the project but the plan was dropped due to the resistance by locals.

He denied a housing society was being developed in near the site for industrial estate.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2022

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