Chitral of the past and present; from the defense point of view

.. by Prof R.K Baig

The former princely State of Chitral has had historical importance from time immemorial. It has remained one of the branches of Silk route but its location from Defense point of view has not been properly evaluated during the Pakistan era whereas before 1947  it was very important for  the British Indian Authorities. They had come to believe that the Mehtar of Chitral is in better strategic position to obstruct Russian advance in the south , after seizure of the central Asian Khanates. That is why they had long internal discussions over the strength, position, resources and man power of the ruler of Chitral as well acquainted with the northern passes and the seasons that were crucial in the past and therefore they developed friendly relations with the Mehtar of Chitral with cash and weapons and signed an agreement in 1885 to engage the Mehtar as their ally.  As Mehtar Amanul –Mulk used to tell his tribal force and fighters to feel relaxed after November till May next as the passes remained under heavy snow and had no danger of raids or invasion in the winters but in spring he ordered to supply fresh stock of firewood to the beacon sites for fire signal system and remained alert round the clock for movements of the hostile neighbouring chiefs.

At present the volatile situation in Afghanistan especially in the north east of the country plus the presence of Taliban in the hinterlands and far flung valleys with which the borders of Chitral touch from Arandu in the south to Sad Istiragh Pass in Arkari valley of Chitral. This part of the border is a porous border and poses threat to Chitral and other parts of the country. Further north the border is safe due to high sierras of HinduKush till KanKhun pass near Boroghil. The vulnerable border cited above requires good vigilance. More attention needs to be focused on this section of the border by our Armed Forces. The internal situation on the other side of the Pak-Afghan border is far from satisfactory and soon after complete withdrawal of the NATO soldiers there could be untoward incidents and we must be ready to expect an influx of new refugees as we have seen in the early 80s.  Both districts of Chitral need greater surveillance than in the past. The post Afghan situation when the Allies get out seems grim and old rivalries may reappear to make things complicated again.

The borders of Chitral and Dir are porous and need special reconnaissance but Swat is lucky in this sense as it has no border with Wakhan or any other part of Afghanistan. The people of Dir are different and mostly armed and know the intentions of their Pathan brothers in the adjoining valley across the border  but Chitralis know very little about the designs of the people below Arandu- the Kunhar valley. The borders of Chitral with Bashgal and Wakhan must be guarded more diligently and more Chitrali youth be recruited in the defense system to guard their borders and be given superior training as they can ascend any ridge or high pass and for that quality they had been given the name “ good cragsmen” by col. Lockhart  in his report on Chitral in 1885. .. Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig, Chitral 21 Jun 2021

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