MANSEHRA: The survivor families of Balakot, which bore the brunt of the devastating earthquake in 2005, are still living in makeshift shelters because of the apathy of the federal and provincial governments towards executing the promised housing project for them.
“It is unfortunate that the survivor families of Balakot are still living in miserable conditions in small prefabricated houses since the quake turned the Balakot city into ruins some 18 years ago,” lamented Munir Hussain Lughmani, a member of the committee constituted by the Supreme Court to overlook the progress on execution of the Rs16 billion New Balakot City (NBC) housing project to settle the survivor families of the Garlat red zone.
Addressing a presser in Balakot, Mr Lughmani said the then Chief Justice in 2017 had also taken suo motu notice ordering both the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments to ensure an early allotment of plots to survivors of Balakot and Garlat red zone in the NBC, but to no avail.
He said the then CJP had given the federal and provincial governments two and a half year to complete this mega housing project, ordering release of Rs1 billion for development of infrastructure. However, he said not a single penny had either been released or spent on it.
Accompanied by a group of survivors, Mr Lughmani, who is also pursuing a suo motu notice case petitioned in late 2019 with the apex court, said despite the ruling by the then chief justice the provincial government couldn’t retrieve land from its previous owners, who were still occupying it despite payment of compensation to them.
On the occasion, chairman Garlat neighbourhood council Malik Maroof said former prime minister Imran Khan had also announced the development of a housing project under public-private partnership to settle the survivor families, but he couldn’t materialise his plan.
“Eighteen years down the road, both the federal and provincial governments have failed to address grievances of the earthquake survivors,” he regretted.
It is to be recalled here that the then army ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf (late) in 2007 had performed the groundbreaking of the NBC. However, the housing project is still in the doldrums.
Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023