‘Kurram Tangi Dam not acceptable come what may’

  • Area’s elders vowed they would not compromise on the issue because it is a matter of life and death to them

The construction of the longed-contentious Kurram Tangi Dam has triggered a strong reaction from the Kabul Khel tribe of North Waziristan Agency (NWA), vowing its construction would be resisted with full might come what may.

The elders of the area convened a huge jirga on Monday (April 10, 2017) in NWA to take the final decision that the construction of what they dubbed “politically-motivated dam” would not be allowed at any cost.

The elders vowed that they would not compromise on the issue because it is a matter of death and life and it could only be materialised on their dead bodies.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif laid the foundation stone of the controversial dam on March 3, 2017, without consulting the locals. The feasibility study, detailed engineering design, and tender documents of the project were completed back in 2005.

The announcement sparked a wave of protest demonstrations in the area to convince the government to revisit the decision of constructing the dam that could completely wipe out their identity from the area.

The project site of Kurram Tangi Dam is located across River Kurram in North Waziristan. It is about 9 miles upstream of Kurram Garhi head works and 19 miles north of Bannu city in the Federally Administrated Tribal Area (FATA).

Talking to Pakistan Today, MNA Muhammad Nazir Khan complained that being a resident of the troubled-hit North Waziristan and MNA of Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), the premier at least should have consulted him before inaugurating the controversial dam.

Before inaugurating the dam, he said, a tribal jirga held a meeting with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) governor, who formed a high power committee, consisting of high officials and elders of the area tasked to evolve a consensus on the construction of the dam.

However, Nazir said that the premier instead of waiting for the committee to evolve a consensus, inaugurated the project in a hurry to appease Saifullah brothers.

“The construction of the dam would displace around 0.5 million people from the area, as it is a very controversial dam and the local did not allow even the then British government to construct the dam,” he added.

He said that if the government is really sincere, it should set up industries in the area because it is a minerals-rich area, as the construction of the dam would not be allowed.

Nazir said that he took up the issue on the floor of the house, even during a parliamentary party meeting and informed the premier that he was misguided, as the dam is located in tehsil Shawa, while the ceremony of laying foundation stone was held in Spinwam.

Jamshed Khan, a geology student at Bacha Khan University Charsadda, who belonged to the area, said that the project had been controversial since 1936, when it was first proposed by the British government, and Kabul Khel tribe decried the construction of this dam.

He said that Mirza Ali Khan, known as the Faqir of Ipi, went into self-exile to Afghanistan to show his resentment against the construction of the dam during 1960, as it would wipe out their identity from the area.

However, he said that Faqir of Ipi had only returned when the then government signed an agreement with him regarding non-construction of the dam.

“All the graveyards of their forefathers and a historical mosque of Faqir of Ipi would be flooded with the construction of the dam, so they would not let it happen,” he vowed.

Zahid Wazir, a senior journalist of the area, said that Shawa and Spinwa are the most peaceful areas of NWA and no military operation carried out there till to date; hence, the government should take benefit of the resourceful area instead of destroying it for political mileage.

He said that USAID should also revisit its decision to sponsor the project because it would displace the whole population.

He questions that the government did any plan for the rehabilitation of over 0.5 million people before opting to launch the project.

The elders, along with the students, have plans to hold a protest in front of the Parliament House, USAID, American embassy and WAPDA, besides moving the apex court as a last resort.

They believed that the dam would benefit only Lakki Marwat, but it would displace the population of more than 5,000, besides destroying the natural resources.

They demanded that the government should explore the mineral, gas and coal in the area because 1,000 MW electricity could only be produced from the coal in the area.