CHITRAL: A large number of landowners held a protest demonstration outside the deputy commissioner (DC) office on Friday against the district administration for declaring private land across Chitral as state property to mint money by auctioning them for mining and other purposes.
The protesters chanted slogans against the district administration and the mine department for calling tenders to auction private land located along rivers.
They said due to erosion by floods and rivers, large chunks of private land along rivers had become desert but the administration was now trying to declare these land as state property under a 1975 notification of the provincial government which has never been implemented anywhere in Malakand Division.
The landowners said they had reservations about the land settlement rules because a survey carried out under it was not authentic and full of flaws. Under this survey, an attempt had been made to convert private land into state property.
They also produced some verdicts of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Peshawar High Court that had been handed down in their favour as regard to ownership of riverbelts. The courts had also barred the local administration from any interference in the private lands.
The protesters said the agricultural land in Chitral was limited and shrinking as most of it had been washed away or destroyed by floods and rivers. But the land damaged by rivers or floods and still uncultivated cannot be declared state property.
They said any new law should not be experimented in Chitral rather it should be put into force across Swat, Shangla, Lower and Upper Dir as these are also parts of Malakand Division.
But the government never imposed such laws in these other districts. People of Chitral are most coolminded and civilized who hesitate to launch protests but it does not mean that their rights should be snatched from them.
The protesters chanted slogans against the deputy commissioner and alleged that first he called then for a meeting but when they turned up the DC office main gate was closed on them. Later, the DC referred them to ADC Minhas Uddin.
During a meeting with the ADC it was decided that the issue will be settled within one month. The protesters through a unanimous resolution demanded the chief of the army staff for an intervention in the issue so as to save the peaceful environment of Chitral.
They also demanded the immediate cancellation of the tenders invited for auction of the private lands. The protesters were led by Shahzada Gul, Shahzada Riaz, Dr. Haidarul Mulk, Syed Muzaffar Jan and Qazi Iftikhar Advocate.