Chitral’s location among the rugged Hindukush mountains keeps it cut off from rest of the country for half of the year in winter. This year, however, Chitralis remain stranded even in summer due to the military operation in the Malakand division. Inside the valley, road infrastructure, healthcare and educational facilities are almost non-existent. The government allocates funds for districts on the basis of their populations due to which Chitral gets a paltry sum every year. However, with the operation in the region nearing conclusion, the residents of Chitral expect that the federal government would announce a special package to compensate the losses which they have suffered due to blockade of roads and collapse of the tourism industry.
Area-wise Chitral is the largest district of the NWFP and accounts for nearly 60 per cent of the Malakand division. Unlike the violence-affected districts, Chitral borders three lawless Afghan provinces of Kunar, Nooristan and Badakhshan in the west. It also opens through numerous passes to militancy-hit Swat and Dir districts in the southeast and south. When seen in such a geographical setting, Chitral could have very easily become a centre of attraction and safe haven for the fleeing Taliban militants. However, the people of the valley played their collective role in maintaining peace in the area.
MNA from Chitral Shahzada Mohiuddin says time has come people of Chitral should be rewarded for their role in maintaining peace under the prevailing circumstances. “Otherwise, there is a danger that they would start thinking that peace has failed to bring them any dividend.” Should taking arms, breaking the law, killing innocent people and blowing up schools are a prerequisite to bring in development? There is a danger that the sense of deprivation can drive people towards a negative approach to attain their rights, he added.
In a letter to Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance Shaukat Tarin, Mr Mohiuddin hailed the decision of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for allocating Rs50 billion for the Malakand division but warned that his area should not be excluded from the package because Chitral has indirectly suffered unprecedented economic losses due to the violence. He said at least 5 per cent of the amount should be set aside to make for the economic losses the current turmoil in the region has caused to Chitral.
He also urged Federal Minister for Information Qamar Zaman Kaira and Lt-Gen Nadeem Ahmed of the Special Support Group not to ignore Chitral while allocating the funds for development of the violence affected districts.