Leaseholders protest against restoration of Mine and Mineral Blocks in Chitral

…  by Gul Hamaad Farooqi

CHITRAL: An emergency meeting of mineral mine lease holders was held in Chitral under the chairmanship of Shahzada Raza-ul-Mulk. Concern was expressed at the meeting that the poor businessmen of Chitral could hardly climb the mountains without any government help or geologist to discover the mines deposits of various minerals, but when they applied for its lease after so much hard work. Department of Minerals and the concerned agencies reject their applications and issue the lease of these mines to other people of their choice. The leaseholders also staged a peaceful protest and chanted slogans in support of genuine demand.
Talking to our correspondent, Shahzada Mudassir-ul-Mulk said that from 2008 to 2021, the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had closed 80% of Chitral’s mineral rich area by dividing it into 15 different competitive reserve blocks. The purpose was to provide these places to large foreign investors through auctions on a large scale. Between 13 years, the provincial government and the Department of Minerals have offered to lease to local and foreign investors on a large scale at various forums, but no investor took interest. Finally, on July 1, 2021, on the request of the people, the PTI provincial government removed these blocks and provided the facility to apply online. This decision was well appreciated by the people. Exploration licenses were offered to local and foreign investors on a small scale and on a large scale. As a result, about 500 investors applied for small scale prospecting licenses and many foreign and local companies applied for large scale exploration licenses.

The government under section 10 has applied for allotment of leases on large scale to local companies under government and private partnership. Approximately 30 leases were also approved.

After all this, the provincial government is now taking steps to block these mountains again. He said that the lease applications coming under the purview of the former block were being rejected by the local investors. A summary has recently been prepared by the Minerals Adviser for the rehabilitation of these blocks which will be sent to the Chief Minister for approval.
On the one hand, the Department of Minerals is conducting a survey with the Geological Survey of Pakistan at a cost of Rs. 324 million for mapping of mineral resources and identification of mineral resources. On the other hand, by deceiving the people to open the block areas of Chitrali, the locals have identified the places of precious stones, Gems stones, dimension stones and metallic stones. Plans are afoot to cancel the applications of the locals once the identification of these places is completed without any government expenditure and to lease them to the people of their choice on a large scale. But the zealous people of Chitral will not allow this dream to come true. Despite the annual revenue of millions of rupees being collected from Chitral district to the provincial government, the restoration of these blocks is a question mark. with this decision of the PTI government, which has a slogan of development of Mines and Minerals, the mineral sector will decline in both the districts of Chitral.

Prince Raza-ul-Mulk said that Chitral is a remote and backward area which is 25% of the area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The provincial government has already taken advantage of the simplicity of the people of Chitral.95% of Chitral’s land has been declared state property through the Land Settlement department. Chitral’s forests have already been banned by the Forest Department and the Wildlife Department. Sand and gravel extraction and crushing plants along the river belt are banned in the entire Chitral district. Due to lack of employment opportunities in Chitral, dozens of unemployed youths are forced to commit suicide every year. The people of Chitral had pinned their hopes on these mountains that after the opening of block areas, employment opportunities may be created but the present government may want to close all the doors of employment to the people of Chitral. It also wants to deprive the poor people of Chitral of their right to live by unjustifiably re-closing 80% of the territory of Chitral. The provincial government should refrain from taking anti-people measures they warned. If the provincial government cannot provide employment to the people of Chitral, then the available sources of employment should not be taken away from them. Maqsood Alam Baig on behalf of Chitral Minerals and Mines Association demands from the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who is also the Chairman of MIFA Committee for withdrawn this decision. He said that if the Govt restores the block area of Chitral then there will be strong protests all over Chitral against this decision. The movement will be launched on large scale. Lease holders will be compelled to challenge this decision in the high courts. The members of the Association appreciate the efforts of Special Assistant to the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for Minority Affairs, Wazirzada kalash , and hope that he would play a positive role in not rehabilitating these block areas. The members of the association expressed hope that Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mehmood Khan, Arif Ahmadzai, Advisor on Minerals, Humayun Khan, Secretary Mines and Minerals, Hamidullah Jan, Additional Secretary Mining will soon resolve this issue in view of public demand and interest.

Meraj Hussain and others revealed that these mineral deposits were blocked from 2013 to 2021 and according to the law deposits which remained closed for eight years, they could not be blocked for more than 8 years.
Javed Younis said that it was a policy of the government to make the entire region of Chitral a competitive bedding block reserve for auction and bring in investors from outside. We waited for thirteen years for the government to bring in investors from outside who will invest in minerals and provide employment opportunities to the local people but the government has failed miserably and has not been able to bring in a single rupee of investment from outside and Govt cancelled it in July. We want the government not to repeat its mistake but to give the local people a chance to invest, which is also our legal and moral right he added.

Our correspondent also surveyed Chitral Bazaar and talked to people and vendors who trade in stones, minerals and related items. Saleem Khan belongs to Karimabad Valley who has been trading in precious stones for the last ten years. He said that if the government blocks them then our employment would be affected and we would be facing from starvation.
Sher Akbar belongs to Parsan Valley. He says that thousands of people of Chitral work in the mines of these minerals. If the government eliminates them, their livelihood will also be cut off.

Amanullah Khan also has a shop for these precious stones in Karup Rasht Bazaar. He says that for the last ten years he has been running the business of James Stone. He also appealed to the Chief Justice of Peshawar High Court, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief Minister Mehmood Khan that Don’t force poor people to commit suicide and provide them employment opportunities. The simple solution is not to block these mineral deposits.

People related to mines and mineral warned that if the government did not comply with our demands, they would be forced to came on the streets the administration and the government would be responsible for any law and order situation … Gul Hamaad Farooqi, Chitral 08 Mar 2022

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