KHYBER: The police resorted to firing in the air to disperse protesting Malagori tribesmen on Wednesday after uprooting their protest camp they had established in front of the under-construction Zagga irrigation tunnel.

Sources said the local residents, mostly attached with the marble industry, had been protesting against a drastic cut in supply of electricity to the marble units in recent weeks.

The marble factory owners and workers had also accused the Tribal Area Electric Supply Company of diverting their share of power to the Zagga irrigation tunnel project, which is being constructed under the supervision of Chinese engineers.

The police have in recent days intensified security of the Chinese engineers and other staff with a number of high ranking police officials from Peshawar paying regular visits to the tunnel site and holding meetings with the Chinese nationals, assuring them of foolproof security.

The situation at the tunnel site went out of control when police uprooted the protest camp of the marble workers while citing security concerns and possible threats to the Chinese nationals present there.

The police action infuriated the already enraged protesters, who in their retaliation pelted the police with stones, while also raising slogans against them and also tried to scuffle with the cops.

Police officials insisted they would not compromise over the provision of foolproof security to the Chinese engineers, while nobody would be allowed to get near the site of the Zagga irrigation tunnel. We will not allow anyone to take the law into their hands while disturbing the peace of the area, they warned.

Meanwhile, Tesco officials said power supply was curtailed to the marble units as they had not deposited their monthly bills for a long time.

They also clarified that electric supply to marble factories was not diverted to the under-construction tunnel project as the project was provided power supply from a separate feeder.

The Zagga irrigation tunnel project was initiated with the Chinese assistance, which will provide irrigation water from Warsak Dam to the agricultural lands both in Khyber and Peshawar.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2024

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