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Attabad disaster: G-B court takes suo motu notice of Hunza killings

January 5, 2012
Published: January 5, 2012

People travel on the frozen Attabad Lake. PHOTO: FILE

GILGIT: Chairman of the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) has taken suo motu notice of the killing of a father and son protesting against delay in payment of compensation to Gojal residents from firing by the police.

The court issued notices to the G-B chief secretary and police chief to submit their reports to the court on the action taken against police officials responsible for the tragedy.

Advocate Ehsan Ali had moved an application to Justice Nawaz Abbasi contending that the government had not taken any action against police officials involved in the firing incident.

On August 12, DSP Hunza-Nagar Babar and his guard opened fire on a group of disaster-affected people from Shishkat killing Sherullah Baig and his son Sher Afzal who were.

The incident sparked violent protest in the peaceful valley. A judicial inquiry held the police official responsible for excessive use of force and the killing of the two men.

Scores of people including political activists were arrested and subjected to third degree torture by a joint investigation team of security agencies.

Some of them are still languishing in jail but the accused officials are roaming free, an activist of Progressive Youth Front said.

In a related development, one of the displaced persons has moved the Gilgit-Baltistan’s (G-B) Supreme Appellate Court for expediting work on widening the lake’s spillway to drain out water. The court will take up a petition for hearing after winter holidays.

The petitioner, Hajat Muhammad has contended that the government has failed to drain out the lake. In the petition, the Pakistan government has been made a respondent, residents said on Wednesday. According to court sources, the respondents have been issued notices, directing them to appear before the court after vacation.


The disaster-hit people of Gojal have threatened to launch a nationwide protest for acceptance of their two-point agenda focused on draining the Attabad Lake and restoring the land route to Gojal, upper Hunza.

The residents of Gojal organised protests and a conference to mark the second anniversary of the Attabad landslide that hit the small hamlet on January 4, 2010, killing 19 people and severing land link between Gojal and the rest of the country by creating a 23-km lake that submerged four villages, Ayeenabad, Shishkat, lower parts of Gulmit and Ghulkin upstream.

Residents also organised a conference to discuss the environmental and social challenges and created by the lake and the economic impact of being cut off from the rest of the country for the past two years.

The submersion of 23km stretch of the Karakoram Highway has adversely affected the local economy and Pakistan’s trade with China.

Merchandise is ferried through boats across the lake. Boat travel has been banned since the lake is now frozen.

“Miseries brought upon us by the lake at Attabad continue to haunt us,” said a resident. Locals also complained of lack of health facilities. Ghulam Nasir, a resident of Gulmit, said, “Life is tough since we can’t reach Hunza in case of an emergency.”

The government evacuated nearly 10,000 people from 36 villages in June 2010. The displaced families have not yet forgotten their homes and fields.

However, the region’s government claims the assistance offered was unprecedented. “Each aggrieved family received Rs125,000 as compensation,” said a district administration official in Hunza. According to him, Rs100,000 was provided to 249 families who lost their property in four villages upstream.

The affected families in villages including Sarat and Attabad were provided Rs200,000 each. In addition, the official said that USAID provided Rs12.8 million to people whose businesses were submerged.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2012.

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