CHITRAL: People of Arandu Gol in the south of Chitral don’t know about automobiles even in this modern age unless they leave their valley bordering Nuristan province of Afghanistan, which runs alongside Tajikistan.
With modern amenities almost unavailable close to their houses, they have long waited for a road, which not only connects the mountainous region with the headquarters of their own district but also hooks it up with neighbouring Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
Lately, the people of the remote and inaccessible valley had a real milestone in their life: the groundbreaking of a road leading to their valley was performed.
With faces beaming with joy, they went to the groundbreaking ceremony in Damel in large numbers as their remote and inaccessible valley is prepared to have a road 68 years after the country’s independence.
It was a day of celebration for the inhabitants of Damel and Arandu valley, many showed up walking across difficult terrain and many miles.
The road is to be built with the funding of the Federal Republic of Germany through the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan Regional Integration Programme (Patrip) Foundation.
One of Patrip’s aims is to promote integration and enhance cross-border cooperation and people’s exchanges among the three countries. Stability of the region by supporting economic and social development also forms its objective and the construction of the much sought facility of road was well in consonant with it.
The road, which is 13.5km long, will be built in 18 months and will cost Rs109 million. It will connect 14 villages of the valley. The valley of Arandu will be keeping in view the importance of the day, the general officer commanding (GOC) of 17 Division Major General Javed Mehmood Bukhari had specially flew up from Peshawar to attend the function and join the DC Chitral, MNA Chitral Shahzada Iftikharuddin and SRSP chief executive officer Masoodul Mulk to inaugurate the road.
Speaking on the occasion, General Bukhari paid tribute to the SRSP staff for working in difficult and harsh environment across Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
He said the organisation had won credibility with international and national agencies for responding to the people’s needs and delivering with integrity and efficiency.
General Bukhari said it had developed a strong knowledge base of working in such environments.
The Chitral MNA and DC lauded the work of SRSP in the area.
Haji Rozi Khan, a local senior citizen, said absence of the road had turned local people’s life miserable, especially by causing nonexistence of health and educational facilities.
He believed the road would connect the valley with the main Chitral-Arandu Road being built by the army in collaboration with the UAE government.
The Arandu tehsil headquarters is connected to Kunar and Nuristan provinces in Afghanistan by a bridge.
This route was used by the Chitralis to travel to Peshawar in the days before Lowari tunnel was constructed. Many Afghans in peaceful days still use health and educational facilities in Chitral and Drosh traveling across the region.
Rozi Khan said the road would not only improve living standards and security in the area, but in the long run when peace returns to the region become a focal point for regional trade and communication.
Dr Inayatullah Faizi, a former project manager of IUCN in Chitral, said as per the historical evidence, Chitral, Badakhshan of Afghanistan and Tajikistan had been one area with the same race and nationality, which had been separated gradually due to a conspiracy of colonialist powers in the last centuries.
He said the people inhabiting the area from Chitral to Badakhshan (Afghanistan) and Badakhshan (Tajikistan) enjoyed the common characteristic of peaceful nature and hospitality which distinguished them from others.
He said Badakhshan of both the countries were the centres of business activities, while Arandu would be another vertex of the triangle in near future and the Patrip Foundation Project would act as catalyst.
Dr Faizi was of the view that after the completion of Lowari tunnel, Arandu town would take a new turn for importance and the construction of the road was inevitable in this context.
“The road will usher in progress and prosperity in the most neglected yet key border valley promising development in different sectors, which will bring it on a par with other areas of the district,” he said.
Valley residents present in the ceremony told Dawn that health and educational facilities would be available to them which were unheard of presently.
Darvesh Gul, a resident, said the 13.5km long road through the mountainous terrains would not only make automobiles reach the valley but it will also open a window for the residents to view the modern world.
“The Arandu Gol area is also known for its dense forest of high quality deodar. The better forest management and upkeep is possible when the valley is connected by road,” he said.
Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2015