Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Saturday, August 9—-August 15, 2008
By Zar Alam Khan
WINTER in most parts of Chitral brings unbearable miseries. But for the last over two years summer has also become traumatic for the dwellers of the far-off Yarkhun valley. From April to October each year, residents in hundreds of villages and hamlets dotting the valley on both sides of the river up to the Boroghil pass on the border of Afghanistan remain deprived of even free movement out of the area.The only jeep-able bridge over the Yarkhun River connecting the valley of over 35,000 people with other parts of the district was washed away in August 2006. The stranded people have knocked all avenues for its reconstruction but the government has not moved to resolve the problem. The provincial MMA government punished the area by putting the project into the cold storage for more than a year because the people had not voted for the religious alliance. Without sanctioning funds, the district government last year asked a contractor to start work in order to appease the people but the contractor soon left the area. The people of the valley later voted en masse for the PML-Q candidates. Soon after winning the elections, MNA Shahzada Mohiuddin and MPA Ghulam Mohammad visited the area and assured the people that the project would now be taken up on a priority basis. The MPA inaugurated work on the reconstruction of the bridge by opening a plaque at the site. But this time too the contractor stopped work after drilling a few borings because the provincial government had not sanctioned funds for the project.People of the valley said they were facing untold miseries in travelling to other parts of the district. Women, children and the elderly are the worst affected, as they cannot cross a narrow, long and dangerously hanging pedestrian bridge which has become the only source of communication to the area. The bridge can become a death trap as its condition has dilapidated due to excessive use particularly by loaders transporting all types of goods. Supply of essential commodities to the valley has been badly affected, resulting in unbridled rise in the prices. As there is no basic healthcare centre in the whole valley, patients die before reaching the District Headquarters Hospital Chitral at a distance of over 250km.Local traders have fixed prices of essential items on their own, saying they pay extra fares to the transporters after crossing the bridge. Taxi drivers and transporters who have opted to stay in the valley have literally gone on a looting spree. Passengers having luggage or accompanied by children, women or sick persons particularly become their victims. This correspondent saw a taxi jeep driver charging Rs600 from a couple after taking them to Dizg village from the destroyed bridge, which is situated at a distance of just three km.