The sprouting springs,
The gushing streams;
The foaming and roaring rivers,
The lofty and mighty mountains;
The juicy, sweet apples,
The honey like mulberries;
The sweet odour of blossoming apricots,
The generous wild berries;
And the oily walnuts.
You will find all these gifts from April to October, periodically, in the beautiful valley of Chitral, called Yarkhun. Yarkhun stretches between Niwaishiru Sarooz, some 3-4 km down the village Brep, and Lashkar Gaaz of Boroghel. The population of Yarkhun is around 30,000 and its total length is approximately 150 km. Its boundaries touch Afghanistan on its North-West and Gilgit-Baltistan on its South-East. The historical passes of Thuyi and Dahkot connect it with Gilgit-Baltistan, while Kankhon, Darwaza and Boroghal Passes on its North-West connect it with Northern Afghanistan.
Strategically Yarkhun has been very important in the past centuries. Before 1920, it had served the Eastern Turks, Kazakhs, Kirghizs and Tajaks as a peaceful route for trade and pilgrimage and was a huge help in the economic well being of the area. Which is why, Yarkhun was one of the most affluent areas of Chitral. After the closure of its communication with the North-Eastern states ( Tajakistan, Kirghizistan, Qazakistan & Kashghar) poverty haunted the area, drifting the inhabitants into the pit of destitution.
Now in 21st century, there seems no improvement in the economic condition of the Yarkhunittees. They are still deprived of their basic needs due to neglect of our government. It seems that the poor inhabitants of this beautiful valley are still living in the Stone Age.
When we talk about the communication facilities in the area, a 20-25 wide Kacha road up to Sholkoch was constructed in 1992-93. The upper part of the valley called Soyarkhun is still commuting through a deadly, narrow kacha road (that doesn’t even deserve to be called as a jeep able road). The above mentioned road did not see repair and maintenance till 2011, when Services & Works Department of Chitral removed the debris stored by the floods and land slides during the past 17 years. But the broken brace walls still need rehabilitation.
The jeep able bridge at Khotan Lasht is strategically very important because it connects Yarkhun valley with Mastuj. But due to poor maintenance, it was destroyed in 2006, cutting off the Yarkhunittes from the rest of Chitral for a period of three years. After a continuous hue and cry, it was reconstructed in 2009, but totally defective, because the rotten beams and other woods of the old bridge were reused after reducing their circumferences, making them more prone to wreckage, by putting in the reason that the beams of the old bridge were heavy and caused the destruction. What a ridiculous excuse, I must say. Now, the old planks have been broken within one and a half year of its reconstruction. Its beams are likely to give way (Go forbids) if heavy load is ever crossed.
Apart from the above mentioned bridge, there are only two other jeep able bridges in the valley, one at Yukum and the other at Zhupu. As there are villages located on both sides of the River Yarkhun, so the people living on one side of the river face a huge difficulty in visiting their relatives, attending schools & medical centers on the other side because the bridges connecting the two sides are located at the two extreme parts of the main valley.
And above all, the population of 30,000 souls has no telephone & internet facility in this modern age.
As far as the educational facilities in the area is concerned, our government can claim for a few primary schools, two high schools (with co-education), two middle schools for girls and three middle schools for boys. The institutions being understaffed are producing students, just literates. There is no higher secondary school/college in the area and the students either have to discontinue their education after their matriculation or they have to attend the private colleges, further increasing the financial burden on their poor parents.
When you ask for a medical facility, there is one dispensary at Meragram and there is a basic health unit (BHU) at Brep, where no MBBS doctor ever exists. People are dying of minor and easily treatable illnesses i.e pneumonia, in this medically developed era.
When a visitor enters the valley, it seems very developed having high schools for girls, basic health units and small hydro power stations in the villages. There is an 800 kV mini hydro-electric project under way at village Pawur, partly sponsored by the Swiss Government and supervised by the AKRSP, Chitral. When it is completed it will surely change the over all condition of the people. The whole credit for all these facilities goes to the AKDN.
And, Yarkhunittees are still awaiting the attention of the Pakistani government.
Dr. Zubeda Sirang,