The people of six villages protested on Daska-Sialkot Road against mud and clay digging which has converted 50-acre arable land into a 100-feet pond uncovering the water table in tehsil Daska.

Sources said that the mud mafia consists of NA-112 MNA Iftikharul Hassan alias Zahry Shan who belongs to the ruling PML-N, his cousin Nanhy Shah, Gul Nawaz Bhalli and Amjad. The business has also contaminated the underground water. The mafia at first bought 21 acres of land and dug it down almost 100 feet by selling mud, clay, sand and Passer, and created a fear for the adjacent localities for being fallen into the artificial pond, said the people of Kot Bhukran, Kotli Kokeyan, Gidpur, Muhammadpura and Salli including Pappu Sandhu, Sarfraz, Amjad, Liaqat and Akbar.

The inhabitants are threatened to sell their precious lands at throwaway prices. “We protested some years ago but most of us then surrendered due to bogus FIRs filed with Motra police. The ditch caused by the mafia covers above 50 acres of land whereas 8-9 acres of land has fallen into it in the last couple of days, and ruined six families,” the protesters said.

“Our crops are affected as the water we pour for irrigation drains into the ditch taking beneficial minerals with it,” they regretted. MPA Mohsin Ashraf said, “The mafia is so fearless under the banner of its political patronisers that it offered even me a share in this filthy business on the condition that I have to turn a blind eye to the menace but I refused.” He pledged to take the issue before the Punjab chief minister.

When contacted, District Officer Environment Waseem Ehsan said, “Following the news item published in The Nation on the mud mafia on February, 16  2014, I ordered the conduct of a survey, and found that safety measures were not being followed at all by the mafia. Then, I filed the Site Inspection Report (vide office letter No 8241DOE/SLK, dated 01.04.2014) to the DG environment. I mentioned in the report that the mafia is violating sections 11 & 12 of Punjab Environment Protection Act 2012 and proposed immediate action against perpetrators under section 16 of the same act but no action has so far been taken.”

However, Punjab Director General Environment Farooq Hameed Sheikh said that he was unaware of the report. However, he said that he would go through the report and take immediate action in this regard. Meanwhile, DCO Nadeem Sarwar said that no black sheep would be allowed to play with life and property at any cost. Daska Assistant Commissioner Zulfiqar Bhoon said, “Due to flood emergency, we are unable to give details of losses caused by the ditch to the six villages but soon we will ferret out.” He also urged the people to file a written complaint with the administration so that the matter could be taken up through properly.