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Hunza youth protest resource grabbing move, call for cancelation of ‘fake’ mining lease of a private firm

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Hunza youth protest resource grabbing move, call for cancelation of ‘fake’ mining lease of a private firm

September 17
07:31 2018

Nusrat Hussain
and Ali Ahmed Jan

Islamabad

Activists and youth
from Gilgit-Baltistan residing in twin cities of Islamabad-Rawalpindi held a
protest demo outside National Press club Islamabad on Sunday (Sept 16) against a government-mine mafia nexus to occupy their natural resources
as well as the intimidation of local people by the bureaucracy.

A large number of
people mostly youth and political activists were holding placards inscribed
with s slogans against the exploitation of minerals of the region, GB government’s
anti-people policy, mineral department officials’ and the district administration
for harassing people and for issuing fake lease to owner of a private mining
company.

The call for the protest was given by youth action
committee of Nasirabad that was joined by different political and social
activists including columnist and development professional Amir Hussain, journalist
and Farman Ali, environmentalist and energy expert Jahanzeb, BNF activist Khalid,
AWP and NSF-GB activists Nusrat Hussain, Nasir Khan, and Ali Ahmed Jan who in
their speeches supported the struggle of the people of Nasirabad and asked the regional
authorities to stop intimidation of people and stop looting spree of the
natural resources of GB.

The speakers warned the GB government to refrain from
dispossessing people of their resources by supporting individual non-local persons
through illegal means. They castigated the local administration for implicating
dozens of youth in fake cases in a bid to harass them.

They criticised in their speeches the “anti-people
policies of the regional government and mineral department officials” and backing
influential individuals instead of protecting the rights of the people; and
harassing them for resisting the usurpation of their resources.

They vowed to continue their struggle against this
move and urged youth of GB to get united and resist the moves by the
bureaucracy and capitalist mafia to deprive them of their land and resources.

They called for unity of the people and continue the
mission of Baba Jan who is languishing in jail for raising voice for the political
and economic rights of the people.

“Fundamental rights of the people can only be achieved
through people’s unity, resistance and political struggle,” AWP leaders said.

Dozens of exploration and mining leases have been
given to some individuals and foreign companies through their frontmen in
Shimshal, Nasirabad, Ghizer district and Baltistan Division without the consent
of the local population, environmental and wildlife departments and in violation
of local customary laws. It has created unrest among the people, they said.

Mr Hussain criticised the local administration for harassing
the community of Nasirabad to surrender their ownership rights on their
resources.

Environmentalist and energy expert Jahanzeb spoke about the background
of the issue saying the local people had set up Al-Nasir Cooperative Society in
1989 to safeguard the
economic rights of the people and empower them who are the legitimate owners of
the land.

About the lease issue, he said the
society was granted 20-year renewable lease in 1997 with retrospective effect
from 1991 for extraction of marble in an area of 650 acres.

The local community developed the
infrastructure including construction of a 4.5km access road to the mine site on
self-help basis and engaged a private contractor for extraction, mining and
marketing of the marble branded as ‘Hunza White’ with the proviso that a
certain percentage of the proceeds will be invested in the development of the
village.

In the meanwhile Mohmand Dada approached
the society as a contractor. But later in connivance with the officials of the
mineral department conspired to grab the mine by obtaining a duplicate lease of
the same mine in 2005, got the permits of the existing contractors suspended
and kept them away from the mine through litigation and coercive
tactics.  

The
society on the other hand has been receiving extensive proposals from both
local and international investors to develop the mine. But the mineral
department instead of facilitating the legitimate owners is backing the ‘fake’
lease holder. The officials have never consulted the community while issuing
the duplicate lease, he argued.

In 2014, the
mining licence was renewed for 10 years but work was suspended due to
office-bearers and village elders being arrested and forced to relinquish
mining rights.

A series of
applications were submitted to the relevant departments by the local community
with the request to look into the illegal mine lease issue, but they seem
adamant to favour the individual ostensibly for greesing their palm, one of the
protesters said.

The protesters also
alleged that the private mineral company has changed the map of the leased site
at least six times since 2004 in collusion with the corrupt mineral department officials.
This illegality has been acknowledged by the GB minerals department director.

The protest was part of the campaign launched by the
residents of Nasirabad and other areas against granting of mining lease to
influential individuals and foreign companies without the consent of the local
people in various parts of GB.

Last week, a big rally of about 500 people marched on
Gilgit from Nasirabad to share their grievances with the regional government
and media. They staged a sit-in outside Gilgit Press Club.

Similar protests were a by progressive youth and political organisations outside press clubs at Karachi and Lahore to express solidarity with the people of Nasirabad and other areas.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1431974/hunza-people-protest-award-of-mining-lease-to-outsider

Protest against mine grabbing and intimidation of people

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