CHAKWAL: The sudden ban imposed on the installation of swings across the province by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has virtually paralysed routine life in a remote village of Chakwal which has been cut off from the rest of the district.
The chief minister imposed the ban in the province after a swing collapsed in Sahiwal during the Eid holidays injuring 34 children. But his sudden order badly affected the village in Chakwal, as its chairlift service, the only means of communication with the rest of the district, was sealed by the district administration. The Haasil village, with a population of over 7,000, is located on the Chakwal-Attock border, about 48 kilometres to the west of the Chakwal city. The Soan River flows quietly in front of the village during normal days but in the monsoon season the river remains flooded. The width of the river ranges from 1,200 to 3,500 feet. There is no bridge over the river through which the people can travel to and from the village.
District admin sealed chairlift over Soan River after an incident in Sahiwal where 34 children were injured in a swing collapse
Till 2007 the villagers used to cross the river by swimming during heavy rains or by walking during the dry period.
“We made numerous requests to the politicians requesting them for the construction of a bridge over the river but nobody paid a heed. After losing all hopes, we established the chairlift over the river on our own,” said Mohammad Arshad, a resident of the village.
The chairlift was running properly until July 10 when the chief minister banned swings across the Punjab.
“While issuing the order, the chief minister perhaps thought that swings were meant only for the recreation of children. But he did not know there is a village in Chakwal where life totally depends on a chairlift,” added Akbar Khan, an aged resident of the village.
District Coordination Officer (DCO) Mehmood Javed Bhatti sealed the chairlift and directed the villagers to renovate the pillars on which it was installed.
“Instead of renovating the pillars, the DCO ordered us to renovate the pillars on our own. The government has not given us a bridge so far and it is even not willing to give us some money to renovate the pillars,” complained Altaf Hussain, another villager.
“The government has funds for mega projects such as the metro bus service and orange line train in Lahore but it has nothing for us,” said Hayyat Khan.
In the meanwhile, the district government has arranged a boat for the villagers but it is of no use. “The river remains flooded these days due to heavy rains and the boat cannot be operated,” said Mohammad Shafqat, who along with his three brothers operates the boat.
The PML-N has always won elections from this village which falls in the constituency of PP 22 represented by MPA Sardar Zulifqar Ali Khan Dullah.
“We are stuck in our village for the last one week. Some people who had left the village before the sealing of the chairlift have been stuck on the other side of the river. But our MPA has not bothered to visit the village and resolve our problems,” said Hayyat Khan. “We would not vote for the PML-N if it did not construct a bridge over the river.”
The villagers told Dawn that 80pc of their agriculture land was located on the left side of the river while the village was located on the right side.
“The ploughing season is at its peak but we cannot cross the river and are unable to reach our land,” said Mohammad Arshad.
When contacted, MPA Sardar Zulifqar Dullah told Dawn that he was trying his best to resolve the problems of the village. “We are going to carry out a survey for the construction of a bridge on Soan River,” he said.
DCO Mehmood Javed Bhatti said the chairlift was sealed because the pillars on which it was installed had become dangerous. “Cracks had appeared in the pillars. Had we not sealed the chairlift it could have led to an accident,” he said, adding, however, that the chairlift would be unsealed soon after the repair of the pillars.
Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2016