The news prints and electronic links have very recently highlighted an incident mentioning that young people from Chitral are joining the Afghan Army. Allow me to put this news in its correct perspective:
After acceding to Pakistan in 1947 Chitral should have been made a part of the Federally administered Northern Areas of Pakistan with which it has strong cultural and linguistic links. A majority of the people in our country still think that Chitral is part of the Northern Areas (now GB province). Only a few know Chitral is a district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and even less people know that its soft-spoken, cultured and fun-loving people have been politically placed in the Malakand Division.
The education level in Chitral is higher than the national average. Especially of the female population. People in Pakistan also forget that Chitral, area wise, is one of the largest districts of the country. Its 14800 sq kilometers. Many District Administrators (now DCO’s) complete their normal tenure of posting without ever visiting a size able part of their district. If any visitor wanted to travel from the south to the north of Chitral it would take them four exhausting days.
Now lets see how these facts, among a host of others, are affecting the youth and making some of them join the Afghan army: Until not long ago we in Chitral were coping with unemployment among un-educated youth. We are now facing a far more serious situation. The un-employed youth of Chitral today are all educated. They are consequently far more frustrated. This is one of the reasons why there is an alarming increase in cases of young girls committing suicide by throwing themselves in the Chitral river. Equally frustrated are parents who have spent most of their income towards their childrens education and are seeing no returns for it. ” My son refuses to pick up the spade and shovel. He says he is now educated. But there is no job for him. Who will help me with tilling my land. What is this education going to get us…” is what you hear very often from Chitrali parents.
This educated youth of Chitral are very visible and active on the internet and particularly on Facebook. They use it to their social as well as business advantage. Many have become tour guides and tour operators. One such person is Imran Schah from Ayun village. Through his beautiful photographs, and description of the places that he has visited, he has marketed Chitral as well as Pakistan better than the most established tour operators in the country. Today Imran cannot understand why our own government and army are so hell bent in stopping tourists to come to his peaceful and scenic Chitral. Let me try and explain what is happening:
The political placement of Chitral in the Malakand Division of KPK is working to the disadvantage of Chitral. When the KPK government, and the Pakistan army, put restrictions on visit of foreigners to the Malakand Division it made no difference to the people living in the other parts of the division such as Bajaur, Mohmand, Dir, Malakand agency and even Swat. But it has made a huge difference to people in Chitral where hotels, tour operators, jeep drivers, shopkeepers, guides and porters have lost a major slice of their business. It almost looks like this law has been made to damage the economy of Chitral.
The KPK government has spelt out a system of obtaining NOC for foreigners coming to Chitral which is not doable especially for tourists who have limited time. To test the system I applied for the NOC of tourist Christopher Candland and his wife to the Home Dept KPK through the Tourism Dept KPK who forwarded the application on 10 July. It is 4th Aug today and I have yet to hear from either the KPK tourism or the Home Dept. The Candlands ofcourse gave up the idea of visiting Chitral and may,sadly, discourage others from going there too.
Similarly, two months ago, Mr Brian Fawcett of Cessd Communications came to Chitral (with all the NOC’s conceivable!) to initiate twenty two development projects ( imagine the number of Chitrali youths this could have benefited) and he was not allowed entry into the potential project areas. So why should we be surprised if our youth are crossing a porous border in search of jobs.
But lets not get too alarmed by this situation either. There is no need for the DCO or the Police in Chitral to raid the homes of the fifteen young boys who have allegedly joined the Afghan army in search of jobs to sustain their families back home. The reason will not be for anything other than the need to support their families. Chitrali’s are among the most patriotic Pakistani’s. They also have a fantical love for Chitral. It is precisely for this reason that nothing untoward has happened in Chitral despite its longest border with Afghanistan which remains open throughout the year while (until five years ago) they were cut off from their own country for five months each year.
The news from across is that the Afghan Army is a non-serious effort by the government of Afghanistan to appease the Americans. They catch people off the street and offer them enrolment. Boys of even fourteen years are seen awkwardly attired in army uniforms. After enrolment you could be on leave for weeks(even months!) at a time but you will continue to get your pay cheque regularly. Its just the numbers they are interested in. This is the attraction for the unemployed Chitrali youth. No more.
But lets use this episode to help the youth of Chitral to find jobs in their own beloved district. Lets take a clue from the present Corp Commander at Peshawar. He has very recently passed an order that young men living on the borders, like the Boroghil Pass, must be given preference over others when recruitment takes place in the Chitral Scouts. And the Chitral Scouts is, like the army in the rest of Pakistan, the biggest employer. That is the best way to keep our youth inside Chitral and also keep your border secured.
If, along with this order, he can also help to lift the restrictions imposed at the Dargai Checkpost on foreign tourists visiting Chitral then there will be no need for the youth in Chitral to risk their lives in unstable foreign lands just to provide bread to their families.— Siraj Ul Mulk, Hindukush Heights Chitral 05 Aug 2012.
Originally posted at: chitralnews.com