Punjab govt and Bhatta Chowk traders lock horns | Pakistan Today

Punjab govt and Bhatta Chowk traders lock horns

LAHORE – The Punjab government and Bhatta Chowk traders have locked horns over the compensation money and the issue is about to turn violent, as the victims staged a protest on Saturday, the fourth in a row at Bhatta Chowk. The protests are likely to intensify, as traders have threatened to storm the Punjab Assembly, CM’s Secretariat and the Governor’s House if their demands to raise the compensation amount up to Rs 2 million per marla remain unfulfilled. A six-hour protest was held on Saturday in which traders raised slogans in favour of their demands.
The value of land in the locality stood at around Rs 1.2 million per marla but the Punjab government decided to give Rs 0.8 million in compensation, an aggrieved protestor told Pakistan Today. Police were called in large numbers to disperse the protesters but no untoward incident was reported. Mian Ashraf, who is chairing the 20-member committee formed by traders on the Punjab government’s direction to address the issue, said that traders had organised three protests already and held a fourth protest on Saturday.
He said that a 20-memebr committee consisting of three presidents of various traders’ wings, owners and tenants including Seth Riaz, Shahid Pappu, Arshad Malik, Rana Arshad, Qari Munir, Haji Naeem, Safeer Sulehri, Mirza Sharif, Zahoor Gora, Malik Nasir, Dastgir Butt, Shahid Khan, Malik Javed and others met government officials thrice but the Punjab government was not ready to retreat from its stance. Ashraf said that the committee members also met Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) Mian Naseer but he failed to provide them with relief.
The trader said that if government bulldozers marched to Bhatta Chowk and tried to demolish the shops, without accepting the traders’ demands, shopkeepers would lie down under the wheels. “They could move on but over our dead bodies,” he threatened.
On being contacted, Mian Naseer said that the Punjab government had given higher compensation to affectees of the Lahore Ring Road and the Bhatta Chowk traders also wanted the same amount. The MPA admitted that the compensation amount should be balanced.
“I met government officials including Lahore Commissioner Nadeem Hassan Asif and recommended increasing the compensation amount by 25 percent,” he said adding that the recommendations have also been sent to Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif to look into the matter. The Punjab government has already released Rs 1.15 billion in compensation and issued notice to more than 300 shops, hotels and plazas at the Bhatta Chowk. The provincial government has also announced that it would open the tenders on March 15. According to notice, under the major infrastructure development in budget 2010-11, the Punjab government needs to acquire land for widening and improvement of Ghazi Road from Package 11 of the Lahore Ring Road Project to Rehman Villas, including improvement of Bhatta Chowk as part of the Package-11 A.
The Bhatta Chowk expansion plan was approved last month during a meeting chaired by Shahbaz.

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