ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday launched “Protected Areas Initiative” under which 15 national parks in the country will be set up or (existing ones) fully protected.
One of the 15 areas is Handarap Shandur which the official list showed as a part of Gilgit-Baltistan. The proposed protected area spreads over 815 square kilometres, according to the official list.
When contacted, Chitral’s Mehtar Fateh-ul-Mulk Ali Nasir told ChitralToday that the proposed site stretched from Handarap village in Ghizer right up to the Shandur Top which is located in the territorial limits of Chitral.
The Mehtar said it would be a great injustice with Chitral. He said the protected area initiative should be a joint project between the governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltsitan, not just exclusively for GB.
Former settlement officer of Chitral, Syed Mazhar Ali Shah, said it might be due to the wrong survey carried out a few years ago by Survey of Pakistan based on Google map. He said when the Chitralis approached the Survey of Pakistan and lodged a protest, they were assured in writing that aerial maps shall in no way would mean geographical ownership.
The government of GB has in the past claimed ownership over entire Shandur which the people of Chitral say belonged to them and there are documentary and historical evidence of it.
The dispute between the locals of Laspur in Chitral and Ghizer district of Gilgit-Baltistan has a long history.
But the government of Gilgit-Baltistan, formerly the Northern Areas administration, started claiming ownership over the whole Shandur Pass after the polo festival was given official status in 1982 and the event started attracting tourists from all over the world.
Later, the GB government also unsuccessfully tried to take over the management of the festival from Chitral.