Gilgit (ET): The historical boundary dispute between Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is not all water under the bridge. Following a claim made by K-P over eight kilometres of land at the Diamer-Bhasha Dam site, lawmakers in G-B are set to give a ‘befitting’ reply over, what they claim, is their land, sources said on Wednesday.
Speaker of the G-B assembly Wazir Baig had constituted a committee comprising lawmakers from Diamer Valley to ‘look into’ K-P’s claim and present a report to the house.
“The committee has done its homework and is set to give a befitting reply to K-P in the next assembly meeting,” a source privy to the development told The Express Tribune. He added that assembly members of the committee discussed “ways and means to thwart” K-P’s claim over some eight kilometres of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam – a project which caused the displacement of approximately 22,000 people in 30 villages.
In the last assembly proceedings, the G-B assembly members had rejected K-P’s claim over part of the structure and decided to inform the federal government about the ‘encroachment’ through ‘proper channels’.
Mega project leads to inevitable power struggle?
The dam is being built on River Indus, about 300 kilometres upstream of Tarbela Dam and about 40 kilometres downstream of Chilas Town, the headquarters of Diamer District in G-B.
With a storage capacity of about eight million acre feet (MAF) and projected electricity generation of 4,500mws, Diamer-Bhasha dam will top both Tarbela and Mangla dams, whose storage capacities have fallen drastically due to silting over the years.
According to experts, the dam is expected to be completed in eight years and will cost over $12 billion.
The boundary dispute between the two regions dates back to two decades ago after Shandur – the highest polo ground located between Gilgit and Chitral – became the focus of attention as thousands of tourists descended upon it to witness traditional polo played between K-P and G-B.
The otherwise neglected Shandur saw the presence of the K-P police organising the event, leading to resistance from G-B. People in Gilgit believe that the federal government continues to look on as K-P “encroaches upon G-B territory”.
Existing tensions the two northern areas has increased due to the controversies of the Diamer-Bhasha dam and the Shandur polo ground, with both sides claiming rights to the land.
In view of growing tensions, the federal government formed a committee last year to bring about a ‘patch up’ between the two regions.
Two years since the committee was formed, the Shandur case remains unsolved. The situation turned grave last year after the Gilgit polo team went against a seven-decade-old traditional sport of polo and decided to withdraw from playing with Chitral.