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'Save river, save Muzaffarabad, save us from Pakistan and China'

'Save river, save Muzaffarabad, save us from Pakistan and China'

How much is $1.5 billion in Pakistani rupee? The figure would make many eyeballs pop out in Islamabad but for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), it's nothing but zilch.

Locals don't care if billions of dollars are being spent in the region — the 1.54 billion dollar investment agreement for the Azad Pattan Hydropower Project signed Monday is the latest addition — or if, as their Prime Minister Imran Khan says, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would be a "game changer."

What really matters to them is too much of Chinese presence in the area, massive construction of dams, and river diversions threatening their very existence.

As China's Gezhouba Group was signing the agreement and Imran Khan announcing on national TV that the project will benefit Pakistan "from all sides," thousands came out on the roads of Muzaffarabad shouting slogans against China and even the ruling government.

"If you try to divert the Neelum-Jhelum river, then remember that our direction will be towards the Islamabad Parliament," said one protestor. They also demanded action against both China and Pakistan for violating the UNSC resolutions by "occupying" rivers.

While reporting a very 'successful' and 'complete shutter down strike' called under the banner of "Darya Bachao, Muzaffarabad Bachao (Save River, Save Muzaffarabad) Committee" earlier this year, Pakistan's leading daily <a href="https://www.dawn.com/news/1456734"><em>Dawn</em> said</a>: "Once roaring Neelum river now gives the looks of a small rivulet right from Nauseri to Domel, where it merges in Jhelum river. While the residents of Muzaffarabad are already reeling from the adverse effects of diversion of Neelum River, the proposed Kohala project, which envisages diversion of Jhelum River through a similar tunnel system, has compounded their worries."

With people chanting slogans like "Neelum-Jhelum behne do, humein zinda rehne do" (let Neelum Jhelum rivers flow, let us stay alive) in the background, Faisal Jamil, a leading social activist, quoted a Kohala Hydro Power Project E-flow assessment report which said that after diversion of Jehlum River, the dry period of the area will be extended by 100 days.

<img class="alignnone wp-image-4797 size-full" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/pokkk.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="646" />

Most of the experts connected with The <em>Darya Bachao Tehreek</em> consider the new hydropower project agreement as open hostility to the people of Muzaffarabad and the people of PoK.

Shaukat Nawaz Mir, chairman of the Markazi Anjuman Tajran, a trade union based in Muzaffarabad involved in the protests, was quoted by<em> Third Pole</em> organization as saying, "The problem is our government is just a puppet government, it cannot fight for our rights. When it meets with the Pakistan government it acts as a yes man."

This, however, isn't the only worry for the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan, a region in deep crisis because of the "step-motherly" treatment meted out by the Pakistani authorities for decades.

<img class="alignnone wp-image-4796 size-full" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/gilgit-balti-students-protest1.jpg" alt="" width="720" height="540" />

Demanding better connectivity, the youngsters of the region are holding protest rallies against the government and boycotting online classes for the last couple of months.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet">
<p dir="ltr" lang="en">A sheer example of internet crises in Gilgit-Baltistan where students have to hike up to the mountain tops just to attend their online classes.
If this isn’t opression i don’t know what will. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Internet4GilgitBaltistan?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Internet4GilgitBaltistan</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GilgitBaltistan?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GilgitBaltistan</a> <a href="https://t.co/6rut0ZP4W8">pic.twitter.com/6rut0ZP4W8</a></p>
— Basit Ali (@BasitAli0337) <a href="https://twitter.com/BasitAli0337/status/1280392988263317504?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 7, 2020</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>With almost every project going into the hands of the Chinese, from Pok till Balochistan, numerous bundles of dollars are coming to Pakistan but a good internet connectivity may still take a lot of time to arrive..