Islamabad: The locals in Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) are planning to hold a protest against the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) and Pak Army on the occasion of the Baba Ghundi festival, for forceful land grabbing near the Chiporsun valley.

Baba Ghundi festival, slated to take place on July 21-23, is celebrated by the locals of Hunza and the Wakhi tribe of Afghanistan every year at the shrine of Baba Ghundi at the Wakhan Corridor along the Pak-Afghan border. It is organized by the GB tourism department in collaboration with Chiporsun Local Support Organisation (CLSO) to pay homage to the local sufi saint.

Besides the Hunza natives, a large number of people from Afghanistan's Wakhan region also attend the festival. The Wakhan corridor is an ancient route used by the local tribes and natives for trade and business activities. Therefore, the festival holds huge economic importance for the local GB people

Wakhan Corridor is an ancient historical route for trade between Hunza valley and Afghanistan. Due to its historical and strategic importance, Pak Army / FWO have reportedly started forceful acquisition of land from the local people.

FWO has already seized control of one village near the Wakhan corridor and locals fear more such acquisitions. The land is very favourable for mining and therefore, FWO is known to be facilitating illegal mining in the area.

The locals fear that the Pak Army/FWO will take the whole Chiporsun valley under its control. The high-handed attitude of Pak authorities has caused hostility with the locals.

Besides forceful land grabbing, Pak Army has also installed an army check-post at the Wakhan corridor along the Afghanistan border, the entrance route for the Baba Ghundi festival.

This check-post may limit the participation of Afghan tribes, which in turn is likely to affect the trade/business of the locals during the Baba Ghundi festival. This is being perceived as a loss, inducing exercise by the locals who see the festival as an important trade opportunity. The restrictions imposed by Pak Army will further affect social harmony between the Hunza natives and the Afghan tribes.

Baba Ghundi, Chiporsun valley lies in the extreme north-west in Gojal Upper Hunza region, 7km from the Afghanistan border and 30 km from the Sost border. The valley has geo-strategic importance due to its borders with Wakhan corridor of Northern Afghanistan and close proximity to Tajikistan.

Due to the remoteness of the area, people have less opportunity to access trade/development initiatives and this festival is a seen as a big opportunity by the locals. Pak Govt had earlier ignored this region due to its inaccessibility and difficult terrain.

The forceful land grabbing by Pak authorities has caused anger and fear in various parts of GB and the local people have been regularly protesting against the forceful land acquisitions.