By Zar Alam Khan
RAWALPINDI: A large number of students and their parents belonging to Chitral have been unable to visit the valley during the summer vacations due to the blockade of the road and unavailability of seats on PIA’s Islamabad-Chitral flights.
A visit to PIA’s booking office in Rawalpindi showed crowds of people scrambling for reservation of seats. However, most of them returned empty-handed after being informed that seats were not available till the end of this month.
Most of the passengers said they had been visiting the office to reserve seats for the last many weeks, but without any success.
They said each year they visited their native villages in Chitral during the summer vacations. However, this summer they were still unable to proceed to the valley as the road via Mardan and Dir remained blocked due to the ongoing military operation and curfew in the region.
Some people are still travelling through Dir after taking a long detour via Bajaur Agency. However, most of the passengers, especially those accompanied by women and children, avoid travelling on the route due to security concerns.
The PIA operates one flight daily from Islamabad to Chitral but mostly it is cancelled due to inclement weather particularly on the 10,500-foot-high Lowari Pass.
A large number of Chitralis living in Karachi, Lahore and other cities have also reached here en route to Chitral but they too are unable to proceed due to unavailability of seats in the PIA flights and road blockade in the Malakand Division through which Chitral is reached.
Talking to Dawn, most of the passengers said the government should make arrangements to end the blockade of the valley and as a first step increase the number of PIA flights or operate C-130s on the route.
The passengers said due to deteriorating law and order situation in the NWFP, particularly after the suicide attack on the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, they could not go to Peshawar for onward journey to Chitral. Therefore, they said, the national flag-carrier should operate at least two flights daily from Islamabad to Chitral.
They also called upon their elected representatives to take up the issue with the authorities concerned and get a special package announced for ending their communication problems till the situation in the Malakand Division normalised.