By Karim Dad
In a civilized society it is the responsibility of the government to safeguard the life, property and integrity of its citizens through honorable procedures and practices. The citizens, through a social contract, rely on and approach the concerned offices for their safety, security and wellbeing against anti-social segments and forces. But, unfortunately, the law abiding ordinary citizens in our society are afraid of those whose mandate is to protect the esteem, dignity and properties.
The series of stories of forcibly and covertly occupying local inhabitants’ lands through exploitation, coercion and manipulations is not new to the people of Aliabad, Hunza. The most barbaric was when the authorities forcefully acquired land at College Road for building the offices of an institution dedicated to dispensation of justice; a widow with her three young siblings was deprived of her most precious land, among three others.
Intoxicated with power, the ‘authorities’ even bulldozed a graveyard-hence making the acquisition tactic an ‘example’ for the rest of the society. Years on, even a part of the throw-away price forced on the owners in the name of compensation has not been paid to them.
In connivance with some colluders rumors were thrown in different localities of Aliabad about replication of the same practice, implicitly to assess the potential resistance at different times. However, the recent case is in continuation of occupation through past practices of coercion and manipulation.
Ustaad Shaheen Khan, a highly respected retired teacher and social worker, and others, were constantly forced to abandon construction work on their plots. The affectees of this attempted brutal daylight robbery were called in to Aliabad police station time and again to force them to disband construction and surrender to pressure for forcefully acquiring the commercial land.
Reacting to the unjust action by authorities, lawyers, political activists, youth and people belonging to civil society joined the affectees in protest.
“It is my land since my ancestors handed me over. Why should I obtain permission from any one to build an abode for myself? I’m asked to go to court of law for no apparent reason. If someone has problem should go to court. Stated Karim-ud-din, one of the affectees. They offer us employment of grade one. At the cost of my own assets why should I enslave my highly educated children”? He said. They authorities are stating that they are occupying our plots because the previous deputy commissioner has chosen this sight. I tell them next day he will chose my home. Should I handover it to him?”, Said Shaheen Khan, the affectee. I have built my makeshift home and have shifted here with my extended family. No one can evict me from here.” He stated.
Due to rapid population growth and scarcity of land, majority of the people in Hunza rely on small piece of land for accommodation purposes only. At present people are building houses on war footings in every locality by getting huge loans from banks to avoid forceful acquisitions. The debt burden and negative impression about the role of good offices itself is a question mark. They should chose a site agreeable to locals out of the town and focus on facilitation to public under one window instead of building and occupying farm houses.
A decade ago the people of Aliabad had unanimously submitted their resolution to the then Assistant Commissioner Office pleading that due to scarcity of land they demand shifting of the district headquarter to any other suitable place.
Time demands that authorities should take into confidence the land owners if acquisition is required otherwise coercive methods will not yield positive outcomes.