Sat. Jun 19th, 2021

The Attabad Landslide Disaster

Abdul Waheed

The massive landslide on January 4, 2010 at Attabad, Hunza, opened new windows of conspiracies for both domestic and international gamblers and unfortunately the artificial lake changed into a ground for a new chapter of the great game.

Nineteen people lost their precious lives and 457 families were internally displaced. The 28 kilometers stretched lake finally submerged the Karakorum Highway including six bridges; hundreds of houses, hundreds of business infrastructures, cultivated lands, thousands of trees and other properties in the lake but drainage of water from the lake are still a nightmare even after its 3rd anniversary on 4th January 2013. From the very first day the stranded community at the upper stream of the lake has been struggling for their life and are still surviving but the continuous human induced disaster in various forms are still on its full swing. Hundreds of protests were made, press conferences were held, press releases were issued and even a big agitation at Aliabad, Hunza, which resulted in loss of two precious lives from the protesters, did not change the attitude of the authorities. From the very first days, In spite of materializing the available resources with honesty for drainage of water from the lake, they politicized it and finally deliberately planned this artificial lake as a source of income, which is still continuing.

Frontier Works Organization’s role and achievements

The first meeting with agenda of Atta Abad Disaster held at FCNA Gilgit on January 14, 2010, which was presided over by the Force Commander Gilgit-Baltistan. In this meeting the contract for removal of debris from the spill-way was decided to be allocated to FWO as it was the only option at the time for the authorities.

The second meeting was held at the Prime Minister House Islamabad on April 19, 2010 under the Chairmanship of Mr. Naimat Ullah Khan, Acting Chairman of NDMA. In that meeting the house showed its confidence and satisfaction over the performance of FWO and they were given permission for continuing the task on the said project. In this meeting some additional measures were also considered to overcome any unexpected situation that may arise in future.

On May 29, 2010, the water reached to the pint of spillway made by FWO and started overflowing from the artificial lake through a narrow stream. The stranded community at the upper stream was not satisfied with the performance of FWO because they thought that FWO was incapable of accomplishing the task on time due to which their property worth billions of rupees submerged into the lake. Meanwhile Rabita Committee Bara-e-Mutasireen-e-Gojal (RCBMG) called a strike at Hunza which resulted into the community’s own intervention in the project and on June 19, 2010 they started working on the spillway. They were also in communication with some national and international funding agencies for assistance because they believed that they can do the job better than the FWO. This was considered to be a risky intervention by the local community and on the other side this was an alarming situation for the current government. As the political setup was already helpless, so general (retied) Nadeem Ahmed, chairman NDMA along with Major General Bajwa, the then FCNA Commander Gilgit-Baltistan visited the site and held a meeting with the MUTASREEN and promised to speed up the work at spillway with more machineries and human resource.

Fourth meeting was held on July 14, 2010 at the Presidency in Islamabad with the agenda of restoration of the KKH. In this meeting as usual the performance of FWO were highly appreciated and once again the contract of FWO was extended and Major General Shahid Niaz was selected the team leader.

On July 23, 2010 a meeting was held at the office of Planning Commission of Pakistan at Islamabad and Mr. Shahid Niaz presided over the meeting. In this meeting three main decisions were taken;

  1. FWO must speedup the work at spillway with its full capacity to make sure the discharge of water from the lake.
  2. The community will be facilitated with the ferry service.
  3. Concrete arrangements for restoration of KKH must be made.

On June 1, 2011 the fifth meeting in this regard held at the Prime Minister House Islamabad and Mr. Zafar Iqbal Qadir, Chairman NDMA presided over the meeting. As usual the work at spillway was appreciated and FWO declared that by June 2014 they will complete the excavation of 100 feet work at spillway. This was also decided that a link road up to the lake will be constructed for easy access of the business community to the lake which is still in progress.

6th meeting in this regard was held at the Planning Commission of Pakistan on June 16, 2011,where the tenders of both CBRC (a Chinese construction company) were accepted and tenders by an American company was rejected and once again FWO got the contract with appreciation.

7th meeting was held at the Presidency at Islamabad where Syed Mehdi Shah, Chief Minister, GB presided over the meeting. In this meeting it was decided to request China for the provision of heavy machinery.

During all these meetings mentioned above the authorities appreciated the progress made by FWO but the stranded community at upper stream of the lake remained critical of the progress in many press releases, protests and press conferences. Despite too many protests from the people of Hunza-Nager the Planning Commission of Pakistan is not ready to say goodbye to FWO. Moreover, General (R) Farooq played a vital role while making this disaster as part of international conspiracy and furnished a pathway himself to settle his entire family in America. In July 2010 Mr. Zardari paid five days official visit to China. During this visit dozens of projects with mutual understanding were discussed and MoUs were signed but the ministry of foreign affairs intentionally did not include the issue of blockage of KKH in the agenda.

Now after completion of three years of continuous exertion for the restoration of KKH and drainage of water from the lake the progress in front of public, against the expenditure is not even satisfactory but for the authorities this expedition has remained an outstanding job. As far as the ferry service is concerned, the local administration can explain it better that how much this ferry service has been useful or a source of continuous trouble to the common people of Gojal and business community. We are also hopeful that the local as well as the Federal Government will remember this burning issue and will come-up with some tangible solutions for the troubles faced by the affected more than 25000 souls of Tehsil, Gojal, upper Hunza.

Chinese interventions 

China is aware of all conspiracies therefore, they have always kept themselves present at the scene. On June 30, 2010 the CRBC, a Chinese Road and Bridges Construction Company submitted a comprehensive report regarding release of water from the artificial lake and submitted to the Planning Commission of Pakistan. On March 11, 2011 a high profile delegate of China with some Pakistani high officials visited the spillway in order to seek possible alternative solutions to this long-standing issue. Likewise, on April 15, 2011 a team of famous dame experts visited the site and submitted a comprehensive report through Mr. Masood Khan, Ambassador of Pakistan in Beijing. In this repot the experts have rejected the dam idea. In June 2011 a Chinese construction company participated in bidding at Planning Commission of Pakistan for the removal of the debris from the site of land slide and re-alignment of KKH. Besides two times of food relief for the stranded people at Gojal, Hunza, from the China-Aid, in September 2012 a consignment of dozens of heavy machineries were handed over to FWO authorities.  Construction of two tunnels and construction of bridges are a part of re-alignment of KKH with a budget of 27 million US dollars has already come to operation in the area.

Political interference

 Although at the time of Atta Abad disaster the political government at Gilgit-Baltistan was new setup, beside so many failures, they took some very good initiatives as well. Fee compensation for students, continuity of civil supply even in the worst scenario, arrangement of food relief both form WFO and China-Aid, Helicopter service and compensation for the IDPs remained their success and good efforts. However, the clarification of the consumption of the Chinese diesel and patrol will remain a burning issue of contention until political leader will takes positive decision to provide the vehicle fuel to the affected population.

Besides the conspiracy of divide and rule through establishment of too many committees with scattered leadership and grant of some useless packages to the directly affected population, has created gaps between them and the general public. The conspiracy at political leadership started when some of the so called members of GBLA realized that this disaster could be an opportunity for them to write-off the millions of loans they had acquired from the National Bank of Pakistan, at Sost branch. So they became a part of the conspiracy to prolong the disaster in order to show their business losses. In this regard the quest by the Chief Minister, Gilgit-Baltistan with his best efforts is on record. The honorable Chief Minister has no worries for the stranded people of Gojal, Hunza, but his sympathy with the so-called business community has remained his daily routine. Moreover, construction of link road from Hussaini to Gulmit through Chamber of Commerce Official and disappearance of the public representatives from the scene is also a question mark. However, the KKH is somehow connected but compensations to the affected people against their cultivated lands are yet to be solved.

Ban on public voices

Peaceful protest against any discrimination and injustice is the basic right of citizens. In this connection the affected community of Gojal, Hunza has raised their voices at various forums with two essential demands. Where the first demand has always remained the drainage of water from the lake and second one is restoration of the KKH. This is on record that all the protests remained very peaceful but harassment of youth through recording FIRs has remained the easiest and cheap approach for both the local and political administration. The one and only agitation in Hunza on August 11, 2011 was an engineered activity by the authorities in order to demolish the peaceful movements. Harassment and torture of the youth of Hunza in police custodies and jails, on the basis of political ideology by relating them with the Aliabad agitation will remain a dreadful spot on the faces of responsible authorities. All protests, press releases, press conferences and writing articles came to an end after this shameful incident. Now let us see the response of keeping silence.

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Mr. Abdul Waheed, is MBA with NGO management, working in development sector for the last 16 years. He has remained closely assocaited with the post Attabad disaster developmental activities. He can be reached at abdulwaheedgmt@gmail.com

1 thought on “The Attabad Landslide Disaster

  1. Thought provoking article, constructive analysis of situation with references. People of Hunza should and must stand up again against these hitched conspiracies, our problems will never get solved if we ‘the sufferers’ remain silent, no one is going to resolve them unless we asked them to. government is going to ignore and gradually forget attabad disaster and affected people as it is always does, as it is easy to turn your back on problems then to solve them, affected people have to come forward, must join hands again and demand for their rights.

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