With the advent of the winter season, life has begun to be tough for the residents of Broghil, a valley in the north of Chitral district, which flanks Afghanistan`s Wakhan corridor.
Unlike other parts of the country, the winter season lasts seven months here with the extremely cold weather forcing people to stay indoors.
Around 280km from the district headquarters, people had to walk for three days to reach there after covering a distance of around 90km on jeep on dirt track until last year when the Pakistan Army built a jeepable track to the valley. However, five major villages continue to be inaccessible. The snowfall begins in September and continues until early May making locals virtually go into hibernation during the season. The valley receives snow of more than five feet and thus, limiting the people`s mobility.
The area is sparsely populated as only 2,000 people live in 13 contiguous villages. Lashkargaz, Garil, Chilmarabad, Ishkarwaz, Chikar, Pechus, Vadinkhot, Jungle and Koi are major villages with density of house-hold ranging from seven to 30 per square kilometers. Chimarabad is the largest village with a population of 321.
Topographically speaking, the area comprises mountainous tracts widely stretched grassy plains and meadows whose elevation ranges from 10,765 to 14,121 feet. The valley has many peculiarities, which enhance its importance apart from its strategic importance due to its proximity to China, Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
Dr Inayatullah Faizi, a former manager of International Union for Conservation of Nature, says the characteristic feature of its topography is that it hosts Chiantar glacier, the origin of Chitral which is named as the Kabul River after entering Afghanistan at Arandu border in the south.
Due to the extreme climatic conditions, crop growing is small in the valley, where only a wild species of wheat and potato can be grown and the rustic people are not familiar with modern farming techniques. The major source of sustenance is livestock keeping, which satisfies their food requirements as well as fuel energy needs because the dung cake of animals are dried and stockpiled in the summer season. The Borgohil valley is known for its high density of yak population, while sheep, goat and cow are also part of the local livestock.
During the summer season, the locals take yaks, goats and sheep to the nearest market of Gilgit-Baltistan and sell them to buy commodities of daily use like tea leaves, sugar, salt, rice, kerosene oil for the next cold season.
Mostly poverty-stricken, they mostly consume the flesh of yaks and goats and their dairy products. The government has opened primary schools, a dispensary and a food department warehouse but officials shirk duty at such a remote place. The intense and frustrating cold weather has made the people of all age and gender opium addict as the narcotic is frequently used as medication even for newborns.
Naveed Ahmad, representative of a local NGO, says the opium addiction incidence is alarmingly high in the area. `The addition incidence is over 90 percent making the poor people`s lives more miserable as it is an additional burden on their limited resources,` he says.
The NGO representative says a special therapy programme is required to be launched to rehabilitate addicts.Snow-clad peaks, lush green meadows, high pastures, lakes, glaciated passes, unique culture and yak polo are enough tourists to the valley and thus, boosting local tourism.
Shamsuddin, manager of the Chitral Association for Mountainous Areas Tourism, insists tourism could help the people fight abject poverty but absence of roads is a major hurdle to it.Local MPA Sardar Hussain Shah acknowledges by and large, the people of the valley are not aware of the facilities of modern age.
He, however, says since his election to the assembly this year, he has been in constant contact with the government and NGOs for funding development activities in the valley.
According to him, a large sum of money is needed for tangible progress in the vast and remote area and it is heartening that he`s received good response from all relevant quarters.
`The locals still remember the days of 1975 when then prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came to their help and got food both for men and animals airdropped in the wake of unprecedented snowfall,` he says.–Dawn]]>