BY MUHAMMAD SADAQAT
ABBOTABAD: Protesting transporters from Kohistan and Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) have agreed to call off their strike as the Hazara divisional administration has accepted most of their demands, said insiders privy to the negotiations.
The transporters have been on a strike from April 1, keeping over 700 passenger vehicles off the road against the government’s enforced convoy system for passenger vans and buses plying Karakoram Highway. The convoy system started in 2012 after passengers on KKH were selectively attacked.
Last week, in a crackdown against the protesters, the police arrested over two dozen drivers and vehicle owners and registered criminal cases against them under terrorism charges.
Representatives of transporters from Kohistan and G-B, and local elders had held negotiations with Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and IGP Nasir Khan Durrani, who asked the divisional administration to address the transporters’ complaints and ensure the stand-off between them and the administration ends.
Tahir Khan, the president of All Kohistan Transporter Association said a meeting was held with Hazara DIG Akhtar Hayat Gandapur at his office which was attended by PML-N Kohistan President Syed Gul Badshah, PTI Kohistan President Ghulam Said Khan, G-B politician Amina Ansari and Dr Zaman.
According to Tahir, the administration has assured transporters that terrorism charges against all arrested protesters would be withdrawn; they would be released in the next couple of days; and vehicles impounded by the police would also be returned.
Speaking about the protesting transporters’ demand of putting an end to the convoy system, Tahir said the DIG allowed each vehicle owner to have a security guard carrying a licenced weapon on each of their passenger buses. “The administration would issue arms licences,” said Khan.
He added passenger vehicles coming from Mansehra would be allowed in convoys twice in a day, at 11pm and 2am daily and the police would not stop them at any point during the journey.
Tahir said participants at the meeting with the DIG agreed the convoy system would be completely abolished within the next couple of months. “Transporters will formally retract the strike on Saturday,” he said.
Meanwhile, protesters in custody were produced before the terrorism court in Abbottabad on Friday and the court sent them to Mansehra District Jail on remand. The next hearing has been fixed for April 13. - The Express Tribune