Police disperse protest rally in Muzaffarabad
17 April 2006
Muzaffarabad: Police on Monday baton-charged a group of earthquake-affected people who had taken out a procession in protest against policies of the Earthquake Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority. Ten protesters were arrested. The protesters, mostly students of the AJK University, were stopped on the main road outside the old civil secretariat when they insisted on marching towards the AJK legislative assembly which was in session at that time, police said. The procession was taken out under the aegis of the United Students Front (USF) from Upper Adda. The USF has been holding protests against plans to shift the AJK University and some offices from Muzaffarabad in the wake of the earthquake. The protesters carried banners inscribed with their demands. They raised slogans against Erra and criticised its policies. Muzaffarabad assistant commissioner Masoodur Rehman told Dawn he had ordered police to use batons because protesters were creating law and order problem despite repeated requests by the authorities to disperse peacefully. Witnesses said many protesters had been injured in the baton-charge but City police station SHO Riaz Mughal said only one had been injured. “We took the action when the protesters attempted to damage some vehicles,” he claimed. Police arrested United Students Front leader Shahzad Ahmad Rathore, Muzaffar Butt, Raja Shahid Qayyum, Syed Qalb Abbas Jafri, Syed Shaiq Hussain Shah, Syed Hussain Hamdani, Saghir Ahmad, Arshad Shah, Sardar Taslim Ahmad and Malik Sohail Iqbal and later shifted them to the CIA lockup. The federal government has announced a compensation of Rs175,000 and Rs75,000 for each completely and partially destroyed house, respectively. So far, the first instalment of Rs25,000 has been paid to affected people. Early this month, Erra chief Altaf Salim launched a campaign from the nearby town of Garhi Dopatta to collect details about damaged houses for payment of the second instalment to the people. However, the affected people fear that the process will delay payment of compensation to them. Speaking at a press conference here on Monday, AJK chief secretary Kashif Murtaza said the collection of details about damaged houses was aimed at ensuring transparency in the process as required by donor agencies.