Several protests against the construction of the Bhasha dam have been held in Pakistan. On 15 February 2006, an all party conference criticised Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf for not taking the people and political leadership of the Northern Areas into confidence with regard to the construction of the dam. The protest was organised by the Gilgit-Baltistan Alliance and was attended by religious, political and nationalist leaders of the Northern Areas and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). A joint communiqué issued and signed by local leaders of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Jamaat-e-Islami, JKANP, Pakistan People’s Party and both Pakistan Muslim Leagues opposed the construction of the dam, saying it would submerge the district of Diamir – the proposed site of the dam.
Despite the local opposition against the Bhasha dam, the Pakistan government has announced that it would go ahead with the construction of the dam. Given the fact that people in the Northern Areas are denied basic fundamental and political rights, mobilising a large movement against the dam is not possible. The so-called Northern Areas Legislative Council (NALC) elected by the people of Gilgit-Baltistan has no real executive power to protect the interests of the people in Northern Areas as all decisions are taken in Islamabad by the secretary in Pakistan’s Ministry of Kashmir Affairs. For Pakistan, the Bhasha dam appears to the best option among all proposed schemes as it will involve minimum human displacement, land submergence while providing maximum power availability. Analysts say that before proceeding with the construction of the Bhasha dam, Pakistan should first ensure that the territorial boundary and political and constitutional rights of the region are well defined and guaranteed by law. Pakistan should also ensure that the Northern Areas get the full royalty from the electricity generated by the dam and that those displaced by the project are adequately compensated. If Pakistan fails to take into account the local sentiments and concerns over the construction of the Bhasha dam, the issue could lead to widespread protests in a region that has already suffered decades of alienation due to the policies of successive Pakistani governments. More