By Ihtisham Ur Rehman
Splitting Chitral into two districts has become the talk of the town. Some want to remain in the limelight by discussing the issue while a few so-called leaders are trying to grab the credit of bifurcating the unified district. Some of the arguments sound logical while a majority of the arguments seem to be full of hot air about the issue.
Among them, two of writers’ views about the burning issue of Chitral are worth mentioning. One is that of Sir Mumtaz Husaain and the other is that of Sir Inayat Ullah Faizi. I respect the views of both of them, however, as a student I reserve the right to disagree with any of them; or endorse any of their views; and they, as scholars, will address the issues and enlighten as well as correct me.
Here I’m not concerned with the name of both the future districts. I’ll look upon some of the grave issues which the future district—Mastuj or Upper Chitral—will face.
Economy defines the upheaval or downfall of any territory. The decolonisation was not a political development rather the weak economy of England after World War Second led to the independence of former colonised countries in Asia and Africa. The disintegration of USSR was not a military failure rather it was the economic policy—especially space race with America—which led to the disastrous defeat of Russia in Afghanistan. So, the fate of any region is conditioned with economy. In the current scenario the establishment of a new district is open to economic dangers.
It is a well known fact that the NFC award is awarded on the basis of population not area; nor it will be increased in the formation of new district. The population of Chitral is not more than 500,000. According to experts, funding to both Upper Chitral or District Mastuj (for the sake of those who are in favour of Mastuj) will not be raised but the same allocations which the district receives will be divided between the two districts. If there is no increase in funding, the new district will face unforeseen repercussions.
As we know Chitral is a remote area with harsh weather conditions. There is no supply of gas or other means for domestic fuel. The only medium of fuel wood is oak tree provided by the lower areas of Chitral. It is also a well known fact that one can’t bring wood from other districts as it is strictly forbidden by the forest department. Even one can’t transport legally permitted wood within a district—Chitral.
Another grave issue will be that of timber. Diyar grows in Lower Chitral. Due to extreme weather conditions and lack of availability of resources the houses are made using wood and tin. The wood comes from lower Chitral. After the establishment of Upper Chitral or District Mastuj we will lose the liberty of transporting wood from Lower to Upper Chitral as it is illegal to transport timber within a district without a permit (a ridiculous one) so how come it possible that one can transport timber from one to another district.
The establishment of administrative departments are pivotal for the development of a district. Unless and until these administrative departments are established the new district will be at the mercy of merciless tide which can wash the newly formed house. But the quick establishment and sustainability of the administrative pillars is also questionable as majority of the departments in Chitral city have always proved to be vulnerable.
Among these departments like C&W and PWD are vital for the infrastructure of a region. First of all it seems that the establishment of these departments will take quite a time. If they are established the geographical condition of upper Chitral is so harsh to make things go smoothly throughout the year. The winter starts in October and continues till April. During these months there is frequent cuts of power as well as communication, even in Chitral town, so how come it possible to maintain official work in areas like Booni or Mastuj, as one of them is likely to be the headquarter of Mastuj or Upper Chitral; where in the former the temperature reaches to minus and one doesn’t see the sun for months except at the time of rising or setting; while in the later the wind, both in summer and winter, howls like a monster.
The important question is: who will suffer?
My answer is: the people of Upper Chitral.
All the teaching staff, lecturers, doctors and administrative positions are filled by the people of Upper Chitral. If the district is established all of them will have to move to Upper Chitral. The after effects of a separate district will have a negative impact on the people of Upper Chitral who reside in Chitral town.
It is a fact universally acknowledged that people migrate in search of bright future—education, facilities, jobs, opportunities—but a new district will put a nail in the coffin as the people of Upper Chitral will be confined to their own district—a volatile and nascent one with less opportunities.
The claim that new opportunities of jobs will open for the people of Upper Chitral is also statically wrong as the statistics tell us on the contrary. Yes, a few will, no doubt, benefit from the new district in the form of positions like DC, DPO, AC, etc. It’ll also be favourable to those who want to reinstate the former District Mastuj.
The last but not the least is the issue of the number of seats in National and Provincial assembly, as the development funds are allocated to MPs. If the number of seats remain stagnant, as some of the experts say, then the new district will only be a havoc. And if the PTI doesn’t win the coming elections, then, as a part of Pakistani tradition, the next government will not take interest in the projects initiated by PTI. And, God forbid, if it becomes so, then the future of Upper Chitral will be unpretentious and prove to be a nightmare for the people.
“However, lets be optimistic and hope that we’ll not be left out in the cold after the making of a new district.”
Note: Please don’t give a reference of Alaska, Antarctica, Europe, etc, while arguing about Booni or Mastuj as headquarter of District Mastuj or Upper Chitral as we have to wait 200 more years to reach that point.
By Ihtisham Ur Rehman