CHITRAL: A long queue of young people carrying heavy backpacks were seen passing through the narrow mountainous trail at the peril of their lives to cross into the Kalash valleys of Bumburate and Rumbur to deliver food items and medicines to the marooned people.

These were the jawans of Chitral Levies going to the Kalash valleys with food items and medicines to be supplied to the people cut off from rest of the district because of the devastating flash flood of 2015.

Raised by the British in early 1900s, Chitral Levies is primarily tasked with keeping vigilance on the long border with Afghanistan, but it has also rushed to the rescue of people affected by disasters.

Rahmat Elahi, a former district council member from Kalash valleys, said food items had run out in the valleys due to blockade of roads and pedestrian tracks.

He the force was always at the forefront in search, rescue and relief operations in the disaster-hit areas.

Abdul Majeed Qureshi, an elder of the Sheikh community in Bumburate, said the levies force had also effectively contained the looting and plundering of cattle by the Afghan miscreants from the Nooristan area.

He said due to the long and porous border along the Nooristan province, Arsoon and Arandu areas of Kalash were constantly threatened by the Afghan intruders, who even succeeded in stealing herds of goats from the pastures, but each time their attempts were foiled by the valiant Levies jawans.

Mr Qureshi recalled that in 1970s when 400 goats were taken away into Nooristan by the attackers, Subeder Shahabuddin of Levies force chased the looters to their area and brought back all the goats.

The force also lost five of its jawans while repulsing a Taliban assault in Arandu and Damil areas in 2011. The force also remains fully operative during the national immunisation days against polio, especially in the border areas of Arandu, Arsoon, Gobor and Baroghil.

Dr Fayyaz Rumi, the EPI district coordinator, said without Chitral Levies, no vaccination drive could be successful.

Qazi Esa Khan, a retired official of the force, said the Levies men also effectively guarded the borders with the Swat and Upper Dir districts against the militants based in Swat.

He said the Chitral Levies also preserved the game of polo by raising horses and patronising the players by employing them in the force.

Mr Khan said without Chitral Levies and Chitral Scouts, the game of polo would have been completely obliterated from the area because of the heavy expenses associated with it and encroachments on polo grounds in different villages.

He said despite all these accomplishments the force had no proper service structure.

He added the personnel also performed the border duty in tough conditions as they did not have barracks and pickets. They are also not entitled to the Shuhada Package.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2021

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