By Z.A. Zulfi (Booni)
Disclaimer: First of all I declare that each and every word and idea are my own. The discussion is not exhaustive rather it is open for criticism from any quarter. Secondly, I don’t claim to be an expert on future studies. Therefore, there is no need to take this piece of writing as an expert opinion instead these are just Fikr e Aawara (Wanderer thoughts). Feedback on the base of objectivity will highly be valued. The only purpose is to create thoughtful discussion on the subject as majority of local intelligentsia including social scientist, poets and writers are concerned about the cultural invasion of various forms which tempted them to strategize multiple measures to cope with. The piece of writing will generate a productive discussion in the field.
Although the former princely state, Chitral, got accession with Pakistan in 1947, the formal annexure came on July 29, 1969. Next year in 2019, we will be completing 50 years of our formal integration with our country. Similarly, in 2069, the centenary of the accession will be celebrated. Though we are much behind most of the districts of KP in many respects such as infrastructure, a retrospective analysis reveals that Chitral has made significant progress in a few areas of life such as education and health despite many challenges. In the last 50 years, the best thing one could see is the opening of all-weather route in the shape of Lowari tunnel. Thus Chitral is no more considered as an isolated piece of land from rest of the world.
It will be queer to think about Chitral future much before the time. However, looking at the current situation and events on the local, national and international level we can predict the future prospects of the region. Let us be a futuristic. Not on an astrological basis but on the basis of facts and figures drawn from a scientific perspective. This will perhaps be a rare piece of writing on the future of Chitral. We must admit that we will be living in the world not similar to what has been predicted a few years ago. It is because of the fact that not only the pace of progress is very speedy but also it accelerates in much faster ways as opposed to the previous times.
Chitral is no longer an isolated piece of land as was previously considered. We are now opened up to the world outside. Let us have a look on the social, educational and infrastructural development of this piece of land. Discussing each and every sphere at length is beyond the scope of this paper. Therefore, some of the areas such as population growth and its impact, infrastructural development, Chinese domination and other future prospects will be discussed.
Despite many discrepancies in the census 2017, the latest census result showed that our population has crossed the figure of 447,000. It is a roughly estimated that about 0.1 million people residing on a temporary or permanent basis outside the district have been registered as non-Chitralis thus depriving us of one Provincial Assembly seat. According to some data, the population of Chitral was about 0.1 million in 1969. It means the population has increased during the last 50 years by about 47%. If the current ratio in population increase prevails in the next 50 years, the estimated population will be around 0.8 million. As the population explosion is the determinant of many socio-economic development indicators, it will have a multidimensional impact on the district. Population will also rise as a result of influx of people from outside. Currently, the cultivable land in Chitral is only 0.4 percet. Rise in the population will result in the shrinkage of usable land properties. Urbanization is another phenomenon as a result of population growth will be sped up with the time coming. No data is available on the population migration outside and inside the district however it has been a prevailing since ancient time. Due to unavailability of facilities of various forms people are forced to leave their native villages and settle in the urban areas. Therefore, the towns with better opportunities shall witness more influx of the people from the peripheries. Consequently, there will be the problem of more population burden on the towns. Problems of unplanned town with haphazard structure will be another issue in the next fifty years.
It is pertinent to mention here that all the cities except the posh areas in the provincial capitals lack proper planning and building structure. In the cities, big structures are being erected without following the building codes. The result is that there is a problem of sanitations and streets structure. Moreover modern scientific ways are never adopted while planning a building in the most seismic zones. Presently our municipal administration and other town planner take deep slumber. Perhaps they will awake after the cities are filled with haphazard structure everywhere and no further planning will be possible. Urban and town planning has always been a totally neglected area of development in Pakistan. Majority of the urban settlement are old and thus mushroomed with unplanned residential and industrial zone. Except some of the posh areas in in the large cities of Pakistan majority of the housing settlements are totally unplanned leaving very narrow spaces for transport and recreational centers. In the next 50 years we will be living amidst the high rise building and garbages. The situation presents a bleak picture.
As a doctor always scares you of medicines and a lawyer of legal complexities, geologists and seismologists nowadays are very concerned about the future of the seismic prone status of Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan (CGB). Currently, the mountainous region especially Chitral and GB are thought to be the disaster prone areas. Research studies from various quarters showed rather shocking findings. Chitral is the region where flush floods, avalanche, and earthquake are said to be the two risks affecting the lives of the people. Presently there is no scientific way to forecast the likelihood of occurrences of earthquake; therefore, communities are at high risk especially because of earth quake. Seismologists are working hard to invent a devise to forecast the earthquake. They are also working on some animal and mini creatures that have sharp sense to detect the weakest seismic waves. Therefore, it is highly likely that by 2069 scientists/seismologists might be able to devise a gadget to anticipate the seismic danger much before it happens just as they do for the weather in these days. Therefore, we don’t need to be worried about the seismic prone areas. People will be foretold about any coming disaster so at least the lives will be pretty safe from any danger. In that sense, we will be safe. However, one thing we must be worried about and that is the effect of global warming on the glacial rapid melting and the consequences of the water shortage in the glacial fed regions.
I have used the word ‘Chinese Domination’ which looks very inappropriate and ugly. However, in the next 50 years this is going to become a reality, a blessing in disguise. Rapid increase in the Chinese production ranging from microwave oven to mobile and television, textile to shoes, hybrid varieties of many fruit to vegetables, sweaters to artificial leather jackets and candle to the light bulb and khurpa to excavator machines have already captured the global market. Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan shall witness the Chinese imprints on our culture, agriculture, industry, cuisine and many other industries. We should not feel alien to this phenomenon because the historical facts are enough to inform us that china had been a dominant power in the history. In the year much before 2069 we will be seeing Chinese boys will outnumber their Pashtoon counterparts wandering in the streets selling ice creams, cold drinks and many more items.
It is said that once in historical time a Chitrali ruler paid some revenue to the Chinese ruler. The gift was said to be of very interesting. Chitrali ruler used to send a box full of fire fly or lighting bug (Jugnu) to his Chinese counterpart. Nothing we know about the origin of this very interesting and romantic gift from the Chitral. However, in the coming time Chinese would be going to be the dominant power in the region. We sometimes complain of our Pashtoon brothers from the down districts that are going to capture the market and control the local business because of the money they possess. In the year 2069 or much before that we can see Chinese opening their hotels and restaurant, business shops, acupuncture clinic, automobile workshops in every nook and corner of the valleys. Yen, instead of Rupees will be the popular currency. Our grand children will be demanding Yen for the pocket money. Mao will be a household name in Chitral. What is more, our fields will be taken over by the Chinese farmers to produce hybrid varieties of many fruit and vegetable. Local varieties of Apples (Izdob), Pear (Shoghori, Charneghan, Ambroz, Taxhian, Arian, Simaki etc), Apricot (Muxhaki, Thoshtak, Gulamanikan, Qazaqi etc) and many more varieties will be vanished. Local dishes such as shoshp, ghalmandi, sanabachi, Reganu and others will be rarely available.
There is no doubt that with the influx of Chinese the infrastructure of the district will highly be developed. Roads, Railways will connect each and every corner of the district. The distances between far flung valleys will further shrink with the construction of tunnels. There will be no more zigzag road structure rather tunnels will be build to connect the remote valleys with each other. Bullet train services will also be available connecting each village and towns. The old fable of a shepherd from Laspur who left his goat herd in Shandur and reached Chitral to witness a polo match and returned on the same day will no more be a dream. Underground shuttle will take him to various parts of the district within no time. In addition we will witness Chairlifts connecting the hard to access area above the mountains.
In the years to come Chitral will be a destination for domestic and international tourists of all fields especially mountain trekkers, paraglide and winter sport players. Due to the all weather access road the area will be filled with tourist throughout the year.
Hopefully, the road access to Chitral will be improved in the next 50 years which would facilitate the international and domestic tourist to visit the area. Chitral will be a destination for the people interested in mountaineering, paragliding and winter sports. In the next fifty years we hope that such facilities will be available for the people. It will create a job market for the local people.
Current Educational status in Chitral is very encouraging showing an uptrend in all education indicators. Alif Ailan, a non profit organization report shows that Chitral has high education score, enrolment and gender parity score than many other district of KP. Similarly High literacy rate of both the gender, less number of out of school children, less dropout rate of children in school show an encouraging trend. In terms of education Chitral has shown better result than many of the districts in KP. Besides statistical complexities it is a universal fact the people in Chitral have high ambition for education. Federal public service commission recent result showed that three women from Chitral have qualified the recent CSS examination which testifies that how much the people in the remotest region aspire for education of their female folk. Another interesting finding by some NGO in Chitral revealed a couple of years ago that amount of money in Chitral invested on education is higher than the amount put for their ration.
In the near future we will get 100 percent literacy rate. In the year 2069 there will not be a single illiterate person in our district.
Glacial water status
According to some expert Pakistan will face high shortage of water by the year 2025. It is due to the fact that river water is being polluted by industrial and household waste. Human activities along the coastal areas make the situation worse as a result of garbage. Chitral is glacial fed area. Global warming adds fuel to the fire. Rapid glacial melting in summer causes flush flood and damage of properties of worth million and lives. The density of glaciers is also depleting. Glacial expert suggest that alternative form of irrigation should be introduced in the glacial fed region to mitigate the unnecessary water consumption. As the population increases thus more water will be needed for drinking and irrigation. It is also interesting yet shocking that by 2050 world oceans will have more plastic than the fish. One can imagine that how disastrous it would be for marine life.
Writing these lines I have become a little bit over ambitious about the topic under question. Pulling together the whole discussion I want to mention here one interesting thing about the future of Chitral. Shah Niamatullah Wali, a saint and futurist probably from Kashmir, lived about 850 years from now has some interesting but horrible predictions about the world. Major part of his writing are no more available except some of his poetry where he foretold about many of the international occurrences such as the coming of Tamerlame, Mughal dynasty, war of independence in 1857, world war I and II, the creation of Pakistan, fall of Dhaka and many other events on international fronts. We don’t know the authenticity of his predictions, however, a booklet titled Mustaqbil ki peshquiyaan (future predictions) are in circulation. A copy is also available in soft form in the world wide web. The writer has also given an intriguing but terrifying prediction about Chitral. The specific name ‘Chitral’ has been mentioned which specifically captured my attention while reading book. This piece of writing is particularly about Chitral so it is pertinent to refer to one of his couplet of poetry where he also predicted about a possible war in Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Chitral, Nanga Parbat, Baa Seen, Mulk e Gilgit
Pas mulk haaye Tibbat geer Jung Aanaa
Chitral, Nanga Parbat along with China, Gilgit and Tibbet would turn into a battlefield (may God forbid). We don’t know whether there is any likelihood of such an event in the future or not? We also don’t have any clue that when and what would be going to happen? But research on such an interesting book will open up many areas of exploration.
By the year 2069 Chitral and its adjacent area will no more be classified as town or village but turn into cities with thriving business and other opportunities for the people. Roads and infrastructure will be built along with educational and health facilities. Material prosperity will arrive with industries such as tourism and mining. However, in the glitter of material well being an horrible truth would still be lurking in Chitral. We will be facing challenges of losing many of our old traditional values, invasion of outside cultures and certainly many other Challenges such as environmental degradation, pollution and scarcity of glacial water and above all the crime rate and race for more wealth and luxury. I myself is still in a state of conundrum that how to prepare our coming generation to with all these before happening. I throw this question to the readers and specially the local intelligentsia to suggest measures for a prosperous, civilized, educated and cultured society.
As I have already mentioned that the future will bring material prosperity to Chitral. However, we need not only to rely on the material well being but also we need to promote the soft side of our life. It is up to the local people and institutions to build their capacities to a level where we can reach a state of well being along with safeguarding our own identity as a nation with history spanning over not less than thousands of years ago. Many areas of our culture such as our language, our traditions, our cuisine, are time tested and are very unique. We must not be overwhelmed with the affluence of wealth.
The newly established University of Chitral is taking good initiatives as it is going to open department of tourism studies. We hope that the same institution will be thinking on establishing research department on the local dialect and culture and more importantly the geological institute along with mineralogy to harness the hidden treasure of Chitral. It is because of my firm belief that it is the academia that can play a vital role in shaping and directing our future.