MANSEHRA: Survivors of the Oct 2005 devastating earthquake in Balakot tehsil on Thursday announced the boycott of the government events meant to mark 17th anniversary of the natural disaster.

“We have decided to stay away from the 2005 quake anniversary gatherings being organised by the federal and provincial governments as the latter want to use them as a good photo opportunity. Both governments have failed to ensure allotment of plots in the New Balakot City housing project to us forcing us to lead a miserable life in makeshift shelters,” chairman of the Tehreek-i-Takmeel Balakot Tahir Khan told reporters.

Accompanied by a group of quake survivors, Mr Tahir complained that the international community donated over $5 billion for rehabilitation and reconstruction after the 2005 earthquake but there was no end to the misery of the people displaced by the natural calamity.

He said the then military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, had laid the foundation stone of the New Balakot City housing project in 2007 but the future of the initiative continued to be uncertain.

Complain about long delays in allotment of New Balakot City plots

Mr Tahir said the project was to be completed in 2011 at the cost of Rs13 billion to resettle earthquake surviving families.

“This housing project has been in doldrums for the last 11 years with the cost surging to over Rs22 billion according to the federal government,” he said.

Local leader Maulana Qazi Khalilinsisted that the federal and provincial governments had never been on the same page about the New Balakot City project.

He said former prime minister Imran Khan had expressed the desire to develop that housing project on the basis of public-private partnership two years ago but his government didn’t take any practical steps for it.

Another resident, Qari Sarfaraz, said quake survivors from Balakot and Garlat areas would boycott the events planned by the government to mark the earthquake anniversary and would hold Quran Khwani for the students, who lost life to the strong earthquake.

FUNDS RELEASE DEMANDED: Chairmen of the village and neighbourhood councils in Balakot tehsil on Thursday demanded of the government to release the withheld development funds to help out the families affected by the recent flash floods.

“Mahandri and Manoor areas are the worst hit by the flooding but we [local governments] don’t have money to repair or rebuild roads and bridges,” chairman of a village and neighbourhood council Sardar Liaquat told reporters in Balakot on Thursday.

Leading a group of village and neighbourhood council chairmen, he claimed that the provincial government wanted to fail the local governments by blocking the release of their development funds even six months after their formation.

“Believe me even members of the provincial assembly elected by flood victims can’t do anything for their relief and rehabilitation,” he said.

Another council chairman, Mian Ghulam Mustafa, said Chief Minister Mahmood Khan should take notice of the delay in the release of funds.

He said the people affected by the recent environmental catastrophe visiting the local councils with requests for the repairs and reconstruction of roads, bridges and other facilities but returned disappointed after learning about the unavailability of funds.

Mr Mustafa said the government first deprived local bodies of the rights and powers granted by the Local Government Act, 2013, through successive amendments and then denied them development funds to the misery of the people they’re supposed to serve.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2022

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