By Zunaira Saqib
Before the Shandur polo festival 2017, the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif landed in Chitral on his impressive ride and inaugurated the much-awaited Lowari tunnel. The media cells pretended as if this was the ONLY problem Chitral had. Yes it was one of their biggest issues because they were cut off from rest of the country in winters, but pretending that the tunnel had solved all of Chitral’s problems is a hoax.
First of all tunnel is not completed to be inaugurated. The 8km patch of tunnel opens for only 3 hours in a day for one way traffic, meaning that you have to wait 20-25 minutes so traffic from one end enters and clears the tunnel. The bridge, connecting the tunnel to the road, is not operational. You have to take an alternate rough road to get to the tunnel. The 2km patch, second part of the tunnel, is not even operational yet.
In case you think everything is alright within the operational part of tunnel you are mistaken. Please read the board which clearly states that the exhausts in tunnels are not functioning. In case of any emergency (which is highly likely) there won’t be any help available (or given). You can die, as you may please, in the tunnel.
Prime Minster gave the speech like he had won a long war with poverty and terrorism on the inauguration of a tunnel that currently isn’t even half operational. Let me tell you that when you enter the tunnel your visibility is barley 4-5 feet due to fumes and dust. I really want to know why the tunnel was inaugurated if it was not safe. What if an accident takes place in the tunnel? Apparently they can’t deal with a fire or give any sort of medical help because these facilities are on 3-4 hours distance from the tunnel.
And forget the tunnel for a little bit, yes it has reduced the travel time from 2 hours to 15 minutes but what about the rest of the route? The road from Dir to tunnel is 17-18 km which in normal circumstances should take you 40 minutes. But it takes far longer than that because it’s not a road it’s again a katcha road. The 10km patch of road, after the tunnel leading to Chitral, is in terrible state too. Obviously it’s very hard for someone to understand who flies to somewhere or owns a luxury 4*4. That goes for Mr. Sharif, Mr. Khan and Mr. Bilawal, who have all visited Chitral in the span of last few months this way.
The road connecting small cities and villages of Chitral to the main town are in terrible state too. I kept wondering what would happen in case someone has a medical emergency. You can very well say inna lilah and wait to die because it can take hours to reach the town. There is a rough road that connects Kalash valley to Chitral, which is supposed to be a huge tourist attraction of the area. You will see that basic facilities, electricity and toilets, in Kalash are provided by NGOs and not the government. A beautiful museum in the area is also built by an NGO. You can call NGOs what you may like but the truth is that they are giving something to people. Ayun valley, where we stayed during our visit, is generating its own private electricity. I wonder what the hell government is doing? It’s not giving people roads, electricity and medical but false hopes are available in heaps. I wonder if Metro Islamabad project was really more needed than the roads in KPK. I wonder if this is what provincial government is doing for the largest district of KPK, what would be the condition of other districts.
It’s been nothing but a pure disappointment; there is NO Change in in KPK as far as I can see. The federal government and provincial government both need to answer..and I hope they do in the next elections. Chitral is a beautiful place and can be a huge tourist attraction, If not for foreigners for local travellers but when everyone’s focus is on political inaugurations, point scoring and pointing fingers then there is really no hope.