Protest continues against shifting of AJK capital
1 November 2007
Muzaffarabad: Opposition to relocation of state-level offices mounted on Thursday as dozens of people tried to block the road and pelted the convoy of AJK Prime Minister Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan with stones. Later, an alliance of political and civil society organisations threatened to resume protest demonstrations to prevent the government from implementing the plan. The prime minister was going to Chinari to inaugurate a school when his motorcade was intercepted by angry protesters in a bazaar of Garhi Dupatta. The market, some 25km from here, was completely shut as a mark of protest against the government plans, witnesses and official sources said. According to a resident of the area, Rashid Naqvi, the protesters were chanting slogans - “Down with Sardar Attique,” “No to his decisions, No to shifting of capital,” - when the VIP motorcade drove past them. Protesters slammed vehicles in the prime minister’s convoy with fists and kicks and some also pelted them with stones when the motorcade was forced to slow down because of the blockade, he added. In the town of Hattian Bala, some 20km from Garhi Dupatta, another group of demonstrators standing on both sides of the road shouted anti- government slogans as the prime minister’s motorcade drove past them. On his way back also, the prime minister was greeted by hostile slogans in Hattian Bala. When contacted, the prime minister’s press secretary Afaq Shah regretted that people had resorted to “unethical actions against the traditions of Muzaffarabad out of serious misunderstanding”. “There is no question of shifting of capital from Muzaffarabad. People should not be driven by the misguided statements of the vested interests,” he said. Police sources said that some 400 people had staged a demonstration near the town of Kahori, blocking traffic on the Neelum valley road for nearly three hours. The demonstrators criticised the government for its plan to shift the capital. Meanwhile, a meeting of people from different walks of life was held at the residence of Legislative Assembly Member Hanif Awan of the People’s Party Azad Kashmir to devise a course of action in the wake of Tuesday’s notification. Participants included Muslim Conference lawmakers Raja Farooq Haider and Noreen Arif, PPAJK MLAs Chaudhry Latif Akbar and Mian Abdul Waheed and People’s Muslim League MLA Chaudhry Mohammad Rasheed. The meeting unanimously disapproved the government notification on master plan and vowed to get it cancelled. In the first phase, it decided to hold a demonstration in Garhi Dupatta on Saturday and a two-hour strike and a demonstration in Muzaffarabad on Sunday. “The present government is bent upon weakening the relationship between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar, committing political and economic slaughter of the people of Muzaffarabad and creating anarchy in AJK,” Mr Haider told reporters. Earlier, PPAJK secretary-general Latif Akbar told newsmen that Pakistan People’s Party chairperson Benazir Bhutto had also categorically stated that shifting of the AJK capital would not be allowed.