MUZAFFARBAD/MAN-SEHRA, Oct 8: President Gen Pervez Musharraf said on Monday that the quake-devastated areas in Azad Kashmir and NWFP were being rebuilt on modern lines.

He was speaking at a ceremony for the inauguration of a park built by a UK-based charity in Muzaffarabad.

The president said that better homes, road network, clinics, hospitals and educational institutions were being built all over the affected areas.

“Two years ago, there was an air of despondency and hopelessness in Muzaffarabad and other areas. But today the situation and the lives of the affected people have changed. People are happy and leading a normal life to a great extent,” the president said.

He said that elements who had painted a doomsday scenario after the calamity, must come and see the reconstruction efforts in the area where quake-resistant houses, modern healthcare and educational facilities and roads were being built.

Officials briefed the president on district headquarters complex built by the Turkish government.

The president lauded the contribution made by the Turkish government. Later, he went to Chakothi where he performed the groundbreaking ceremony of the Chakothi-Muzaffarabad highway and inaugurated a school and a water filtration plant. He was accompanied by AJK acting President Shah Ghulam Qadir and Prime Minister Sardar Attique Ahmed.

There was high security in all the places the president visited and Muzaffarabad presented the look of a fortified town with heavy presence of police and army personnel who had sealed the main thoroughfares at various points since early morning, aggravating in particular the plight of women, children and patients.

The authorities did not allow activists of a civil society organisation to take out a procession from Upper Adda to draw the attention of the president to delay in the approval of a Master Plan for Muzaffarabad and a host of other problems the people were facing even after the passage of two years.

“What is the use of undertaking a tour in which he (the president) is not ready to meet survivors and members of civil society,” said Mohammad Khurshid, 35.

In the afternoon, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz visited the AJK capital and, amid equally tight security, inaugurated a centre for the handicapped, established by the ICRC, in the old city.

Before going to Azad Kashmir, the president visited the quake-hit areas of Mansehra in the NWFP and inaugurated work on the Bisian-Balakot-Naran road in Chatta Batta.

Speaking on the occasion, President Musharraf said that with the strong support of the international community, the government had carried out development projects at a cost of billions of rupees.

The 65-kilometer road will be reconstructed by the Frontier Works Organisation and the National Highways Authority at a cost of Rs2.31 billion in 30 months.

The president also inaugurated the building of a government high school in Chatta Batta, built by the Turkish government.

“Critics have always unfairly criticised our good work, but anyone who visits the areas affected by the October 8, 2005, earthquake in the NWFP and Azad Kashmir today would admit the fact that most of the problems of the survivors have been overcome,” President Musharraf asserted.

Mansehra Nazim Sardar Muhammad Yousaf praised the government for its efforts to rehabilitate the earthquake-affected families and infrastructure.

He said the government had waived the agriculture loans, and urged the president to write off the house-buildings and salary loans of the people of the quake-hit areas.