Chitral: burden of the ingrates

Lowari tunnel completion shoots up land prices in Chitral

CHITRAL: The completion of Lowari tunnel, providing an all-weather route to Chitral for the first time, has caused a phenomenal increase in prices of land in the valley.

Shaheen Shah, a property dealer, said the price of a piece of land measuring 11,664 square foot) in the heart of Chitral town was about Rs800,000 before 2005, but jumped to above Rs12 million, a 12 times increase, as the tunnel was made fully operative.

He said most of the prospective purchasers were non-locals, causingthe phenomenal increase in the prices of land as they bid higher and higher. `Such is the case with the demand and prices of land in different roadside villages of Chitral, including the major towns of Drosh, Booni, Garam Chashma, Mastuj and Ayun,` he said, adding land prices had increased 10 times in these areas since the work on the tunnel was started 12 years ago.

The property dealer observed that more than 80 per cent of his clients were non-locals, majority of whom from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa followed by Punjab. Abdul Ghafar, another property dealer, said with the construction of Lowari tunnel, there were bright prospects of Chitral beingconvertedintoabusiness hub due to its connection with the Central Asian Republics through the Wakhan corridor. `

The possibility of turning Chitral into an alternative route ofChina-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has worked as catalyst in increasing the prices of land,` he said. Giving another reason for escalating land prices, he said the people in upper and remote parts of Chitral preferred to settle down in the towns as they availed better civic amenities there.

MPA Syed Sardar Hussain Shah said as per the constitution, no person could be barred from purchasing a moveable or immoveable property in any part of the country, and as such the process of purchase of land by the non-locals in Chitral couldnotbe stopped. He said the landowners could not resist the temptation of exorbitant prices being offered to them.

Mr Shah said if a popular movement was launched like the one in Hunza of Gilgit-Baltistan, where no outsider could purchase land although he could take it on rent only for a limited period, the trend of selling land could be arrested.



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