June 2004 News

Road closure hits 20,000 villagers

13 June 2004
The Dawn
Our Correspondent

Gilgit: The security forces have not yet opened the Gilgit-Nomal road for traffic, nor are they allowing villagers from Nomal, Naltar and Chilmisdas to enter Gilgit city after the imposition of curfew on June 3, even during the curfew breaks, the stranded villagers said. They said that even though the authorities have opened all roads for traffic, the Gilgit-Nomal road had been singled out for closure 'to teach 20,000 villagers a nasty lesson' for taking an active part in the recent syllabus-based agitations. They said the government forcibly snatched their 4,378 kanals of land in Chilmisdas and bulldozed at least 30 under-construction houses legally owned by them. 'Now the government fears a backlash from the villagers and the government forces have cordoned off Chilmisdas by setting up Frontier Constabulary checkpoints on the main road to Nomal, Faizabad and Naltar', they said. This blockade for the past 10 days had created miserable conditions in these villages and mostly patients were the worst affected. Villagers in picturesque Naltar valley said owing to the blockade they had lost thousands of tourists in the season and failed to transport back fertiliser and seed for cultivating their potato crop, which is a cash crop widely grown in the hilly Naltar valley. 'We solely depend on the potato crop to fend for ourselves throughout the year and if this blockade continues, we fear a famine would stalk at our doors as no other crop is grown in hilly Naltar due to harsh climatic conditions', they said. The villagers of three areas said there were no hospitals except basic health units and authorities even refused to allow patients' to be transferred to Gilgit City. They said they were badly hit by food and flour shortages and often they had to carry flour bags on their back and travel many miles on foot from the Karakoram Highway. It is learnt that even government employees from these villages were not allowed to perform their duties. The villagers have appealed to President Pervez Musharraf and Northern Areas Force Commander to end this economic blockade.


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