How a five star hotel can help tourism in Chitral

Published on: 31/08/2019 | Comments: No comments 

.. by Atta Ur Rehman, Chitral?

CHITRAL: As a student of tourism and economic development I would try my best to explain the topic in layman terms in the context of district Chitral.

Chitral needs no introduction with its unique culture, picturesque valleys, famous treks, lakes, festivals, glaciers, forts, and peace. Nature has a lot to offer to the people who travel to this district on tours and vacations. However, a tourist doesn?t only look for what provides the reasons to travel (demand side) but also for services (the supply side) that are required to make his travel and stay comfortable in the area.

For example, besides its natural beauty, forts and peace, one of the reasons tourists throng to Hunza is the KKH. Similarly, the quality hotels available there make the tourists stay comfortable, safe and secure. For the last 3 years tourists? inflow in Chitral has increased by many times. However, a particular tourist segment is still not able to travel to Chitral due to lack of facilities and quality services. This segment includes the upper class and upper-upper class, and foreigners. The reason being the non-availability of regular flights, poor road conditions and lack of quality accommodation services.

The flights usually happen to be two days a week and could be managed thus avoiding the long travel on the road but the lack of quality hotels can?t be worked out overnight. The few quality hotels are booked in long advance and have very limited capacity. On a conservative estimate the top 4 hotels in Chitral town can accommodate about 350 people at maximum. According to sources, Mehtar-e-Chitral and family were once requested by a ?Culture Trust? to let them renovate the Chitral Fort in the footings of Altit Fort and Shigar fort and develop into a liveable place of highest standards which was declined by the family. The gap still exists for such a high standard hotel that can provide quality services for the tourists. But the question arises is; How is a four-five-star hotel important for Chitral. Below are few of the reasons that I can think of now;

Branding of Chitral: The foreign tourists in particular and the elite domestic tourist in particular ask, ?Is there PC in Chitral? Marriott or Serena??. Saying yes adds value to the product your offering, the services you are mentioning and the region you are luring tourists to. This helps in positive branding of the region and is one of the indicators of stability, peace, and development of the region. If a multinational company invests in a region that shows that there is something worth visiting in the region. Many foreigners don?t get NOC only on the basis that there are not enough secure places to stay in far-flung regions.

Employment Creation for locals: When you go to a hotel in Quetta, Swat, Multan, Gilgit, etc you will see that most of the people working in those hotels are the local people. It makes economic sense for the companies to hire local people because of cost-effectiveness, low turnover rates and sense of ownership. It is a win-win both for the company as well as the local people. A five-star hotel on an average hires more than 100 permanent staff. According to the standards of five-star hotels by World Tourist Organization (WTO), a 5-star hotel has to hire at least 20 staff for 10 rooms, which means if the hotel builds 50 rooms then that must hire 100 people for maintaining the quality of services.

Associated small businesses: When hotels are built local services and products are needed including vegetables from local farms, fresh meat from the local market, vehicles for transports of goods, cars for dropping and picking guests, laundry services, tour guides, local arts & crafts, and you name it. Some might argue that a five-star hotel has its own laundry or pick and drop. Yes, but not all guests avail those services inside the same hotel. Secondly, a hotel doesn?t have the expertise or time to grow its own vegetables, fruits, honey, and dairy farms.

These are some of the local businesses that flourish alongside the hotel industry.
Transferable and Marketable Skills Development for locals: If you are trained in a hotel and gain skills in front office management, sales, cooking, public relations, food & beverages management, housekeeping, etc you are skilled enough to work in thousands of hotels in the industry. You have skills that are required by many in the industry and you are always open to other opportunities in other hotels. There are fewer chances of you remaining jobless.
Thriving social life, events, and entertainment: Hotels also provide space, services and the right environment for social activities such as family gatherings, meetings, conferences, workshops, and local exhibitions. Imagine such things happening in Chitral in much-organized manner and attracting researchers, academicians, companies, and locals to interact with a diverse group of people.

The list is long and you can add more to it but those are the few key areas that are positively affected by such kinds of investments in a region. There are few negative impacts of development of tourism in a region too but four-five star hotels are bound to follow international rules and regulation which protect the local environment. For example, the sewerage and drainage system of the hotel needs not to affect the local environment. The waste is properly managed etc. However, due to increasing pressure from local communities on such matters and local media, international brands such as Marriott, Serena, Park Hyatt, Avari, etc are well aware of the consequences and most of the time comply. And if they don?t they are too vulnerable in terms of their reputation.

I personally think that this is high time that a hotel of such standards should start seriously considering the worthwhile investment. A particular segment of the tourists is reluctant to visit Chitral based on the lack of quality services and hotels. This will benefit the company as well as play a key role in the economic development of the region. For a multinational chain to build hotel in a far-flung region such as Chitral is not very lucrative business most of the times given the seasonality of tourists and lack of supportive infrastructure, however companies with greater vision usually see the multiple benefits that they can provide both to its shareholders and the local communities.

The writer is Business Adviser for Australian Govt Funded Program, Market Development Facility, and is based at Lahore head office. He blogs at

Conference on ‘Economic development of Chitral’ held

Published on: 21/08/2019 | Comments: No comments 

Chitral: A national conference on economic development of Chitral was organised by Chitral Chamber of Commerce. The conference was held at the University of Chitral Auditorium and richly participated by concerned stake holders. The moving force and spirit behind the conference was founder president Chamber of commerce Sartaj Ahmad Khan.

The conference was spread over three sessions. Nizam Ali, Bashir Ahmad, Sajad Ali, Dr Bilqis, Israruddin Saboor, Muhammad Amin and Dr Yasser Arafat presented papers on the subject while Muslim ul Haq, Iftikhar Ahmad, Shahzada Maqsood ul Mulk,Haji Ghulam Ali, Molana Abdul Akbar MNA, Abdul Rahman, Muhammad Ataur Rahman,Fazal Elahi ex minister, Anwar Khan ex MPA, Humayun Khan ex MPA, Asad Mahmood WB rep, Badshah Munir PD Chitral University, Wazir Zada MPA, Maghfirat Sa Dist Nazim, Comdt Chitral Scouts, Col Moinuddin , DC lower Chitral Naveed Ahmad and DPO lower Chitral Waseem Riaz reflected their views on the presented papers.

Crux of the views put forward by speakers was that Chitral had vast potential for hydel, mineral and tourism development , and these areas must be harnessed and put to best use for Chitral’s betterment. .. CN report, photo credit, 21 Aug 2019.

WASEP reaches the last village of Broghil valley

Published on: 01/06/2019 | Comments: 1 comment 

by .. Shah Karez

WASEP-the Water and Sanitation Extension Programme of the Agha Khan Planning and Building Services, Pakistan (AKPBSP), now called Agha Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), a component of the Agha Khan Development Network (AKDN), reaches Lashkargaz, the last human settlement in Broghol valley, on the Chitral side.

Google image of WASEP Projects

AKAH is the umbrella organization encompassing Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), Building and Construction Improvement Programme (BACIP) and WASEP. The former two components of AKAH are left for a separate discussion. For now the purpose is to explain the WASEP model that is worth replicating by other agencies such as Public Health Engineering and NGOs dealing with WASH activities.

With the completion of water projects currently under construction in Broghol valley, no household will be left without safe drinking water. All running projects are scheduled to be completed during 2019. This is the resolve of the regional team of dedicated professionals in AKAH office Chitral. The local councilor Mr. Amin Jon from Lashkargaz is happy with the new development and appreciates the work WASEP has done in his area of representation. He is also aware that these projects are funded by the Federal Republic of Germany through Pakistan-Afghanistan, Tajikistan Regional Integration Programme (PATRIP) Foundation. PATRIP funds a number of Water Projects including a Polo Stadium and a Community Center in this far flung valley. AKAH has rightly selected the isolated and well-deserving valley of Broghol for PATRIP supported projects. While traveling from Chitral town it takes 21 hours to Lashkargaz, the last 15 kilometers being on foot. WASEP model requires heavy community contribution entailing opportunity cost for the poor communities as they can survive only when every member of the family is engaged in livelihood struggle.z

Human settlements in Broghil

Struggle for livelihood in Broghil

The ultimate credit of the water supply projects completed in each village must be given to the hardy communities who say ?NO? to diarrhea which is considered to be number one killer of children in regions with poor quality of water and unhygienic conditions. This killer disease is unfortunately waterborne.

The need for safe water is crucial in a place like Lashkargaz lying at roughly 12000 feet and the abode of 22 permanently settled households where health facilities are not at easy access.

WASEP Model works

The International Award Winning Model of WASEP has been hailed for its integration of water supply with the construction of low cost sanitation facilities and health and hygiene education. WASEP strictly adheres to the protocols of the World Health Organization to ensure supply of Safe Water to the beneficiaries. Water quality is tested and captured at the source. At the terminal point the water quality is again tested before it reaches the distribution tank which is disinfected properly. The beneficiaries are allowed to use the water for drinking only when it is ensured that the water reaching the house is safe in all respects. Water Quality Analyst of WASEP continues water testing at household level on quarterly basis until sustained flow of safe water is ensured.

Water Quality testing at Spring Eye in Broghol Valley

During the planning and implementation phases the beneficiary communities particularly women and children are engaged in hygiene awareness workshops entailing information on personal, household and environmental hygiene. WASEP trains community appointed plumber and a female health hygiene implementer. ?Health and Hygiene Promoters of WASEP take formal hygiene awareness sessions with women at the village level and children along with teachers in the schools located in the project area. Award winning essay competitions are held among students to further promote awareness on sound health and hygiene practices.

Health & Hygiene Awareness Session

Community Partnership is the hallmark of AKPBSP that ensures conflict resolutions, ownership and sustainability of the schemes. In the parlance of WASEP community participation is defined as involvement of the beneficiaries during the entire project cycle. According to the terms of partnership the community takes responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the water project after completion. A Water and Sanitation Committee (WSC) is elected and trained to oversee the project related matters during implementation and afterwards. The beneficiaries collectively contribute to a fund that is kept in term deposit and the profits are used for operation and maintenance of the water system.

Starting in 1997 WASEP has provided safe water to 154 villages including hamlets comprising 10901 households with over 87000 mostly marginalized population of Chitral. Most of the water supply projects completed with WASEP support proved resilient to disasters during the floods of 2010 and 2015. However some were badly damaged by 2015 floods which were restored with the support of WASEP. All minor damages were repaired by the communities using the maintenance funds they had collected during the implementation phase. These communities, despite having the right, did not ask for government support to rehabilitate their damaged water supply projects. This integrated system is a replicable model and only at a distance of willingness by the relevant public sector for its adoption.

(Shah Karez is an experienced development professional specializing in Community Development)

.. CN report, 01 Jun, 2019

Tripartite MoU signed for uplift of Chitral

Published on: 29/04/2019 | Comments: No comments 

CHITRAL: A tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed among Islamabad-based Hashoo Foundation (HF) and two Chitral-based organisations has called for joint efforts for community mobilisation and resource management for development of Chitral.

The local organisations included Chitral Community Development Network (CCDN) and Chitral Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

CCDN chairman Sartaj Ahmed said that the MoU would yield positive results in view of completion of Lowari tunnel exposing the area to outer world and the bright prospects of development. He also referred to the problems of rampant poverty and backwardness and the existence of marginalised community across the district.

Mr Ahmed said that the fabulous potential of hydropower generation, tourism, mines and minerals, quarrying of the marble deposit by establishing marble city were on cards in the near future and preparation of the community to rise to the occasion was yet to be made.

He said that HF was seeking empowerment of the communities by making their access to the opportunities easy and was in a better position to lend support to the Chitral-based organisations.

?The parties will jointly access the government ministries, international NGOs and donors to identify and convert opportunities into business and project proposals,? he said.

The CCDN chairman said that they would promote collaboration at relevant forums and support various interventions and ensure liaison with public-private entities for their respective functions. The MoU was signed by Sartaj Ahmed, CCCI president Wazir Khan and HF country director Aisha Khan.

Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2019

Undertakings for sustainable development

Published on: 27/11/2018 | Comments: No comments 

.. by A.M.Khan

The climatic change for few years we see in our areas, in the country and around the world is hurtling and it happened to be faster than what scientists had predicted some years back.

This year?s summer was dry and extremely hot in Pakistan and May?s highest temperature was recorded in Turbat. The climate change in highlands areas was also impactful. In the month of Mid-October and November, this year, rainfalls in some parts of Chitral and Gilgit Baltistan first time recorded autumn floods, of minor level,? for which elders of the areas arguably don?t find instances, however, snowfall in these months has been common till near past.

IPPC and Living Planet report by World Wide Fund reveals wildlife population decline by more than half in less than 50 years. This report also features human as specie and its survival in this planet?? Anatole Lieven in his book had featured climate change first and most important problem of Pakistan in 2011, it?s now one amongst seven countries of the world most affected from climate change. Since agriculture contributes 18.9 to GDP, and employment to 45.1 percent population of the country both employability and food production may hit by it. CPEC?a game changer, has its long term plan lays focus on agriculture in terms of boosting yields, reducing losses from both harvest and transportation; making livestocks and dairy products more productive but the stress of climate change exactly ticking on this point in the country.

The PTI chief Imran Khan, now Prime Minister of Pakistan, at a rally had included environment in his 11 point agenda, and promised to plant 10b trees across the country. This year plantation drive started across country, earlier in KP province, is a positive step lauded widely in the country. Some experts have, however, questioned planting of thirsty trees-eucalyptus and conocarpus, in water stressed areas. This initiative, however, may add to existing thin forest cover, and help creating awareness about the importance of forests to our environment.

District Chitral, particularly lower Chitral, has had a wide cover of natural vegetation of coniferous? plants grown mostly in highlands, have excessively been cut down for fuelwood and construction purpose. It is, before merger of State of Chitral with Pakistan, by now being chopped down for fuelwood, other purposes, and said to be smuggled. Excessively axing Oak trees?have a very slow growth level; according to a report around 50thousand tons a year for fuelwood should trigger local and governmental conscience to protect natural vegetation from extinction. Providing alternative affordable source(s) of energy, particularly LPG plants?were under consideration of previous federal government, may reduce this deforestation.

The semi-arid and arid bound Pakistan to face rising temperature, its impact on agricultural production, fruit production; and increasing vulnerabilities of floods in the highlands areas? northern areas and Chitral. It is not only drought hit fruit and crop productions in Chitral, past few years also attest this constant fall in production level. The dry conditions, according to a report of Met, caused water stress in agriculture areas of the country this year. It was not very surprising in the month of August, after a long spell of dryness; a flash flood washed Osiak Drosh in lower Chitral which made 27 families homeless. Those areas in Chitral which had limited water supply system(s)?yearly-snow-fed-glacial-water, have experienced water stress for crops and drinking.

This year not only the people of Mori-Lasht and Mulkhow Warijun?sought media attention, but the whole mulkhow, Torkhow, some parts of Tehsil Mastuj, Lotkuh and Lower Chitral deficient of water resources, prematurely harvested crops, collected fruits and other agro-based productions. What seemingly probable in Chitral has turned out to be likely when crops and fruit produce? infected and diseased coupled with low yields, may be lowering nutritious content, has resulted when temperature crossed its optimum temperature range in the area, and water requirements to hit the maturity level of both crops and fruits remained unmet. It is yet to discover, in highlands areas, how concentration of carbon dioxide has reduced the protein and nitrogen levels of some crops, fruits nutritious levels, and contents in animal provender.

Since water scarcity increased in Chitral for crops and drinking, interestingly, a drive started to naming River Kabul as River Chitral, rather to press provincial government and civil society organizations finding ways and means to lift river water for crops and drinking in the areas. The possibility of lifting water, by solar-or-electricity-powered system, in most low-lying areas of upper and lower Chitral can easily be done. Originating from Chiantar Glacier, River Chitral, one of the major tributary on north-west flows into Afghanistan at village Arandu, contributes 10 to 12 percent of the flows of Indus water system benefits around 20m people, but the people of Chitral have not yet been able to get minimum benefit from it. Pakistan and Afghanistan both as co-riparian also predicted to be facing the adverse impact of climate change-induced large scale calamities from this river.

Since climate-driven vulnerabilities are high and risky for the areas and those people who depend on small-scale farming has resulted to overly using available resources. It also prompts impactful dynamics which affect crop and fruit production in the area. Working on improving water supply system and frugal exploiting available resources of the area has become a matter of necessity in the area for sustainable development.

?.. The writer is M.Phil Research Scholar in the University of Peshawar

Chitral needs more Investment for sustainable development

Published on: 16/06/2018 | Comments: 2 comments 

.. by Shah Karez

Pakistan is endowed with the largest collection of high mountains in its North. Three of the most important mountain ranges of the world, Himalayas, Karakurams and Hindukush meet here. These mountain ranges are the water towers of Pakistan and repository of biodiversity. In addition to meeting the water needs of the country, these precious resources are providing sustenance for the communities living on these mountains and their fringes.
Chitral is one of these highly mountainous regions nestled between the Hindukush and Hindu Raj ranges. Spread over 14850 km2, Chitral boasts of maintaining 40 peaks over 6100 m. and over 30 odd valleys.

These peaks play critical role in providing vital services to the communities in the form of fresh water, clean air, and habitat for biodiversity, source of food, energy, minerals, flora and fauna. The snow melt in the form of Chitral River, its tributaries and Springs provide source of fresh water for drinking, for irrigation, and has the potential to generate over 3000 megawatt hydro power. The arid climate makes it an ideal habitat for a variety of plants and animals.
Like other mountain regions in the world, Chitral Mountains also contain high-risk environments. Avalanches, landslides, earthquakes and glacial lake outburst floods threaten life, while fragile soils make these areas vulnerable to environmental degradation. Seismically, Chitral has been declared as Red Zone, prone to severe earthquake.
The occurrence of disasters is on the rise. Extreme weather conditions have been observed during the past almost two decades in Chitral. Snowfall and rains have become untimely and unregulated. Frequency and severity of the disaster events are exacerbating livelihood risks, poverty, food insecurity and health problems.

Flash floods devastated Yarkhunlasht village in 2001, in 2005 floods of the same nature occurred in Brep village, and in 2007 Sonoghur village was destroyed by glacial floods. Buni town was the next victim of the same kind in 2010 together with Reshun village. In June/July, 2015 as much as 45 villages were affected by rains and floods, including the villages named above which were repeatedly hit.

Picture credit Shafiq Iqbal, 2015

The floods also washed away part of Chitral -Buni road at Kuragh resulting in food and energy crisis and water scarcity in upper Chitral. Garamchashma road was washed away from Shoghor down to Roondur and the valleys of Murdan and Zhitur were badly flooded. The essential commodities in Garamchashma bazar exhausted creating severe crisis. Confronted with a do or die situation the people were forced to work for several days on opening of the road to enable edibles reach there. Several bridges across the district were washed away further increasing the vulnerability of the people to cope with the situation.
To add to miseries an earthquake followed in October 2015 destroying over 18000 dwelling houses and animal sheds. Such events push the affected communities further down the ladder of economic, social and psychological poverty.
What is worse, it takes years for the communities to forget the miseries and recover from the shocks.

Brep after 2015 floods photo credit Shafiq Iqbal

Flood season has come again, floods have started even before the Moon soon rains. On 10 June, 2018 the picturesque Bumburet valley was flooded. Wheat and Maize crops and fruit orchards were destroyed. One can imagine the woe these events inflict on the affected population.

Bumburet floods 10 June, 18 – destroyed crops/orchards-Picture credit

Way forward:
Experts attribute most of these floods to climate change and resulting Glacial Lake Outburst phenomenon.
This might be true but the havoc played by these floods has to stop. Natural Resources such as Glaciers and Rivers call for protection and conservation. There should be an end to further denudation of the forest. The rangeland and pastures must be safe from overgrazing and trampling of livestock and poachers. The Forest and Wild Life conservation and promotion should take priority on the government agenda. Minimizing the disaster risks is the call of the day for immediate attention. Agriculture in all its dimensions needs promotion and investment. The potential for business and employment have to be exploited. Education and Health sectors need further investment. Gender friendly and women empowerment activities need further attention. Building codes need to be applied to protect maximum lives in the event of earthquake. Without building a credible internal road network we will lose the benefits of the CPEC projects from reaching the poor.
It is issues such as these that need special attention of the national, provincial and district authorities, political leaders and civil society at large.
The investments made by the NGOs such as Aga Khan Development Network, Sarhad Rural Support Program and others for sustainable development in Chitral is appreciable. It is because of the work of these NGOs that Chitral boasts of having strong social capital. The Public sector has to be more serious in building strong partnerships with the private sector to attain the dream of a prosperous Chitral living in harmony with nature. .. Shah Karez, Chitral,16 Jun 2018

Development perspectives

Published on: 10/02/2018 | Comments: 2 comments 

.. By Islamuddin

In 1980s, the World Bank and IMF, driven by the interests of the corporate world, launched a model of development, which later on came to be known as ?Filter Down? theory, first propounded by Dr.Mehbubul Haq, who was then associated with the Bank. Under the theory investors had to be facilitated through infrastructure development and those at the receiving end had to be contented with basic needs fulfillment, through handouts in the name of social safety nets, funded by the Bank and its partners in the corporate world, before the fruits of development can filter down to them. The net result of this approach was increase in poverty, rampant corruption and growth of parasitic mindset in the society. Social sectors were ignored leading to all out deterioration in health, education, environment and other sectors, tasked to develop human resources, leading up to the creation of egalitarian society and quality democracy.

In Pakistan this era is called the era of lost decades, when politics became a big business and voters saleable commodity. The resultant game of musical chairs overseen by the USA, exacerbated fault lines in our social fabric, the bitter fruits of which, would continue to be reaped for years to come. Chitral, until then a model of peace and social harmony, for the first time in its history, saw communal clashes taking place. Independent analysts traced the origin of this phenomenon to rising poverty, parochial/ sectarian politics to find shortcut to get into the corridors of power. Without a paradigm shift in our attitude and conflict resolution mechanisms things would remain more or less the same. Putting back the lid and shying away like an ostrich can only be a recipe for bigger problems.

It was in this background that international NGOs led by AKDN came to Chitral to address its poverty issues and rebuilt communal relations through participatory development and welfare projects. Had it not been for these NGOs, Chitralis would still be living in cave age. It is another matter that wrong priorities, jobbery and non-existent third party oversight deprived Chitralis of the full potential of development that the hefty funds would have brought. The strategy that the local communities themselves would own and supervise their projects was misconceived because the poor and illiterate people having the mindset of being loyal subjects, with no sense of citizenship or democratic rights lacked the capacity to make these NGOs accountable or projects sustainable. In fact the Government itself had failed to empower the people in this behalf through regulations, which could have ensured supervision and audit control. The resultant free for all benefitted the already privileged and increased frustration among the majority thus creating another fault line and culture of impunity.

While it is largely correct to say that poverty leads to hatred and conflict but there could be other factors. Without an integrated and inclusive approach complete success would remain a distant dream. While INGs, including AKDN, pursued development projects, other institutions working for communal harmony through better mutual understanding, did nothing to bridge the communal divide and create common ground, which was there till the beginning of 20th century when one set of alien influences were implanted paving way for cultural invasion followed by another set of invasion in the last quarter of the century. The rolling back of these influences and restoring the old sectarian paradigm required visionary leadership. Unfortunately this leadership is either non-existent or simply not allowed to come forward, especially among Ismailis. The bureaucratic system, built around institutions, has been so contrived that fresh air or fresh proposals are successfully blocked out. Visits of His Highness are stage-managed to shield incompetent leaders and strengthen the feeling of all is well, as we so frequently see in Pakistan. As a result opportunities for critical input and better decision making are lost. The establishment finds comfort in the status quo and makes every effort to entrench its position and the people stay caught up between the rock and hard place or try to find other avenues for comfort and that also explains the emergence of Khana-i-Hikmat and the resultant controversy refusing to go away.

No system can be sustained through lies, which was so evident when Prime Minister Khaqan visited Chitral to inaugurate the Golengol hydro project and tried to take credit for every development project in Chitral including Lowari Tunnel, Chitral-Gilgit road and others. The fact of the matter is that Chitral was brought to the development limelight in 1970s by Z.A.Bhutto. It is he, who visualized and started Lowari project but Nawaz Sharif?s mentor and spiritual father Ziaul Haq rolled back the project and Nawaz Sharif was part of his regime. The project was restarted by Mushraf who was then considered as Bhutto reincarnated. It is another issue that after three years, in 2002, Musharaf turned politician and lost his aura. It is an irony that Bhutto?s party slowed down the project and diverted funds to the areas of political heavy weights. The Chitral- Gilgit road owes its origin to the MOU signed by Asif Ahmed Ali with Central Asian republics after the collapse of Soviet Union, which provided framework for the present CPEC projects including the road projects under reference. Other mega projects like the Golen project and Chitral Ring Road project were also visualized and launched by other Governments. Nawaz Sharif and his mentor Ziaul Haq had contempt for Chitralis and considered them mice on whom such a big amount cannot be invested. They may have done things for individuals but not certainly for Chitralis as a people.

It is proof enough that today Chitral is standing on the precipice of disaster. Our natural eco-system is gone. Massive deforestation, land erosions, environmental degradation, shrinking land space, limited career opportunities and subsistence living, aggravated by frequent natural disasters, are taking their tolls. It is best exemplified by the recent census report which places its population at 450000 as against 350000 in 1998. Given its current birth rate this population should have exceeded one million. The only explanation for this census result is that almost half of its population has migrated to other areas for survival. It the present trends are not arrested Chitral may well wither away in a few decades. The only ray of hope is the Aga Khan who has called upon his institutions to pay more attention to Chitral and Northern Pakistan. AKAH has to lead this effort. The Aga Khan model to supply potable water in cold regions has been successful and there are indications that the model would be replicated by the Government. But in the presence of contractor cum commission mafias the Government may well be hamstrung. AKESP and AKHSP have to radically redraw their priorities to make their service delivery outfits sustainable. This may not be possible without visionary leadership. The recent turnaround in AKESP may not have been possible without competent leadership. AKHSP can take a leaf out of it. Excessive interference by honorary leadership in professional matters should be stopped as have been observed in SEDP. In no should the identification criteria of the poor for the purpose of life support be violated to please a honorary leader and efforts be made that the dole-outs do not lead to the rise of parasites. The current individual support system may be supplemented with endowment support to genuine sustainable community based institutions working in the education and skill sectors.

It is good to know that after successful intervention in providing clean drinking water, the newly created AKAH would now intervene in the areas of safe housing, sewage disposal and disaster mitigation after successful intervention in drinking water sector. Recently WASEP, a subsidiary of AKAH, completed a landmark project to save three villages from seasonal flooding through dredging the water course and erecting protective walls. It is a measure of their successful partnership with the community that a project has been completed at 10 times less cost. It may be noted that these villages have been completely inundated by floods thrice in recent memory. Only last year they could sleep well in flood season after the project was completed. Earlier Hashoo Foundation successfully piloted a check dam project to save couple of villages from avalanches. These two are successful models that need to be followed to restore our eco-system. In the next stage land management, massive plantation and conservation work should be taken up. There is a lot of awareness coming to the people, which need to be cashed through creating opportunities for climate compliant cropping, diverse means of livelihood and capacity building. Today as matters stand, people have sold their livestock to restore the eco balance. This they have done at a great cost to their livelihood but this sacrifice will go waste if matching steps are not taken on war footing by the Government and NGOs to rehabilitate their pasture lands, glaciers, barren lands, mountains, river beds and forests devastated through centuries of neglect and misuse.

Last but not the least is the urgent need to invest to change the mindset of people. Religious leaders have a great role to play here. The law against using religion for political gains should be strictly enforced. Leaders of all three communities in Chitral should sit together to guard against divisive tendencies. For this a leadership forum was proposed in the past by late MPA Zainul Abiddin and it is time that this forum is put in place. Alien influences tending to negatively impact on communal relations must be rejected. Ismaili leadership will have to pick up courage to come out of the shadows of their patrons in Karachi and start taking contextual decisions, both in matters of theology and development directly drawing on the vision of His Highness. The Ismaili worldview developed in IIS should be transmitted undiluted without distortion because this worldview has the potential for inter-faith harmony and world peace, built on the edifice of our common humanity. Imam?s vision of Muslim unity and common spiritual leadership of the Prophet (SA) can only come true only if his followers can put their acts together and get for themselves the kind of institutional leadership capable of translating his vision into reality and for this to happen matters should not be left to positional leaders alone. Everyone has to play his/her role. .. Islamuddin, Chitral 10 Feb 2018