Refugees told not to attend rallies: Land-grabbing attempt by minister
7 March 2007
Muzaffarabad: Officials of the Development Authority Muzaffarabad (DAM) have advised earthquake victims resettled on land owned by the agency, not to take part in protest on the call of an Azad Kashmir minister. “The minister is inciting gullible people into agitation against DAM in order to grab a part of the precious land,” an official told Dawn on Wednesday. The DAM authorities alleged that the refugees were being provoked by the minister to hold demonstrations against the DAM to overshadow the land grabbing attempts, the official said. The DAM anti-encroachment staff on March 1 raided the site after reports that some people were building permanent structures and erecting fence around a portion of DAM’s 80- kanal land allotted to the authority in 1989 by the government. The refugees whose Raru camp was badly damaged in the quake were temporary settled in the DAM land in Jan last year. However, no refugee family was allowed to pitch its tent on a portion of the land which was already inhabited by nearly a dozen relatives of Forests Minister Syed Murtaza Ali Gillani. DAM officials complained that when they went to dismantle the barbed-wire fence and permanent constructions they were attacked by the refugees. The attackers also include Mr Gillani’s younger brother. The minister's brother also visited the DAM office and abused Estate Management director Mohammad Latif Khokhar for ordering anti-encroachment drive. The minister himself telephoned the officer and threatened him with dire consequences. Journalists, who visited the site on Wednesday, saw the fence which separated around 10 kanals from the remaining area owned by the DAM. Refugee leader Maqsood Kiani admitted that when they were brought here last year, Mr Gillani did not allow them to raise tents in this portion. Latif Khokhar has lodged an application with police against the minister and his brother for attacking and abusing government servants and attempting to grab the official land, but the police denied registering a case against them. Instead senior police and administration officials had been convincing Mr Khokhar to withdraw his application. 'The minister is regretful and therefore we think that this issue should not be pushed further,' a police official told Dawn. Meanwhile, the DAM employees have decided to end their pen-down strike against the mistreatment of their senior officials on Thursday after receiving a message from the minister.