Bureaucracy drags feet to help land mafia: NALC member speaks on Astore distt issue
21 April 2006
Islamabad: A ruling party member of the Northern Areas Legislative Council has alleged that the local bureaucracy was conspiring to make the headquarter selected by the federal government for the newly upgraded Astore district controversial by fanning sectarian hatred. Dr Muzaffar Ralley told Dawn this week that the land mafia, in complicity with the local bureaucracy, was trying to spoil the prevailing sectarian harmony in the district. Though Eidgah was notified as the headquarter of Astore district two years ago, the bureaucracy has been dragging its feet because the land mafia wants it to be located at Gorikot, a small town with a population of 4,500 people. In fact the bureaucracy has sought Rs11.5 million for acquiring 100 kanals land, and Rs57.948 million for construction of government offices at Gorikot, apparently to benefit the land mafia, said the former president of Karakoram National Movement. The amount could be saved by retaining the old headquarters at Eidgah and by adding some new offices in the existing infrastructure, he maintained. He accused an influential man who wants to sell his barren land in Gorikot for the proposed government offices with the collusion of Deputy Commissioner Capt (retd) Mohammad Usman. Dr Ralley was elected NALC member in the October 2004 elections as an independent candidate from Astore but he along nine other independent members joined the PML enabling it to form government. The PML had managed to grab only six seats in the 24- strong house that remained incomplete for almost 17 months until elections for six women reserved seats and six technocrats seats were held on March 22, 2006. Meanwhile the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench on Tuesday (April 18) issued notice to the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas on the issue on a petition filed by Ramzan Ali, the chairman of the Eidgah union council, seeking implementation of the notifications issued by the Kana ministry on October 8, and November 12, 2004. The petitioner contended that the local administration in defiance to the Kana division notification had proposed Gorikot village as the headquarters for the new district, which was 10 kilometres away from the existing headquarters. Eidgah has been for the last 200 years the headquarters of Astore. With a population of over 30,000, Eidgah comprises three communities living together with harmony, said Dr Ralley. The existing town already has the necessary infrastructure and other facilities while the proposed site at Gorikot lacks basic facilities. This has triggered protests by the residents of Eidgah local people and clashes with the police resulting in injuries to scores of people. Even women for the first time in the history of the area took to the streets and held protest rally on April 17 against the bureaucracy and the delay in implementation of the Kana division notification. The local people, public representatives and notables of Eidgah in an appeal to the President and Prime Minister have demanded immediate implementation of the Kana ministry’s notifications and opposed shifting of the old headquarters to Gorikot. The public representatives have often been decrying the powerful bureaucracy for dabbling in local issues and dividing people on sectarian and regional lines. “The bureaucracy is overstepping its jurisdiction and proposing development projects that are the sole responsibility of the elected representatives”, Dr Ralley said. He regretted that the federal government is not implementing the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s historic judgment of May 28, 1998 asking Islamabad to transfer administrative and financial powers to the local elected people and ensure all basic rights to the people of the area. Islamabad instead empowered the bureaucracy. We want transfer not delegation of powers to the NALC, Dr Ralley said.