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Pakistani police break up quake payment protest

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MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan, Apr 17 (Reuters) Police in PoK today baton-charged a rally by survivors of last year's earthquake worried about compensation for destroyed or damaged homes.

The October 8 quake killed 73,000 people in northern Pakistan and made about three million homeless. Reconstruction efforts, which include compensation for homes, are getting under way.

''We had to use batons because they refused to disperse peacefully. But it was mild action,'' said Masood ur Rehman, a senior government official in PoK.

The protesters, most of them students, were beaten on a main road in Muzaffarabad, the ruined capital of PoK, as they tried to march towards the region's legislative assembly.

Police official Riaz Mughal said some of the protesters had tried to damage vehicles and 10 had been detained. He denied that anyone had been injured although witnesses said a few of the protesters appeared to have been slightly hurt.

The protesters complained of what they called the ''anti-people'' policies of the Earthquake Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority and the government of Pakistani Kashmir.

The government has announced compensation of 175,000 rupees for owners of houses destroyed in the quake and 75,000 rupees for those whose houses were damaged.

Most people have received an initial instalment of 25,000 rupees but this month, the head of the reconstruction authority announced that ''assistance inspection teams'' would make checks on houses before second instalments were paid.

Many survivors believe the inspections will mean delays in compensation or even that they will receive no more instalments.

But PoK's top administrative official, Kashif Murtaza, told reporters people were mistaken in believing they would not get proper compensation.

''The government wants to ensure transparency of the process in line with the requirements of donor agencies,'' Murtaza said.

''There is no need to harbour any doubts about this process.

The government will fully facilitate survivors.'' Reuters SI GC1925

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