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CPEC and Dorah Pass

Arandu and Dorah trade routes

Muhammad Amin

Dorah Pass occupies a vital significance regarding its geo-strategic location since time immemorial. The historical pass has served as connectivity between Paksitan, Afganistan and Central Asian states in terms of warriors’ mobilization and cross-border trade since ancient times. In old days, invaders from both sides of the pass had used it for the purpose of their conquest and territorial occupation. Similarly, mercantile caravans crossed it to deliver their goods in the subcontinent and Central Asian states. The exchange of commodities included spices, cloths, herbal medicines, pots, styrax and gems stones.

The pass also became important during the period of Great Game when in 1892 after the death of Mehtar Amanul Mulk, Sher Afzal came through this pass like a lightning thunder and killed Mehtar Afzalul Mulk who was in alliance with the British government. The invasion of Sher Afzal resulted in the famous siege of the Chitral Fort which lasted for nearly 46 days when finally the British forces cleared it. This scenario had, indeed, shaken the prestige of the British Empire even abroad.

When former Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan in 1979, Dorah Pass once again came to the attention of the world. Millions of refugees from the northern parts of Afghanistan came to Pakistan through this pass. Moreover, it was a central place for mobilization of Northern Alliance of Afghanistan. As regards trade, gems stones, cattle and other commodities of trade worth billions of rupees took place through the pass between the two countries.

Dorah is a Persian word which means two paths. The left side of the pass leads to Munjan and Panjsher valley. While on the right side, it goes to Shikashum near the historical Oxus River. The pass is also a part of Durand Line which demarcates the boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The famous Lady Dafferine Lake (Hawze Dorah) is also located here which is called Chaat in Chitrali vernacular. The lake also provides great attraction for tourists due to its scenic beauty and delicious trout fish.

Dorah Pass provides the shortest transit route to reach the Central Asian States, which are rich in uncapped naturalresources.The total distance from Chew Bridge in Chitral town to the Oxus River is about 180 Km.

Shah Salim, which is the last village on the side of Pakistan, is connected to the pass. After crossing the pass, there are a few small villages in the Afghan side before one reaches Tajikistan. These villages are Singlich, Oskotal, Poroo, Keida, Zebak and finally Shikashum. As the road is in poor condition, it takes about eight hours to reach the destination. If a standard road is constructed, in six to seven hours one will cross the Oxus River to reach Tajikistan from Chitral town.

As Chinese President Xi Jinping has launched his vision of One Belt One Road Initiative and CPEC, the OBOR flagship project is progressing well towards its objectives. This process of connectivity will not end with the completion of CPEC projects in Pakistan but the process of connectivity will go on with inclusion of other countries reviving the old silk route connectivity. There appeared rapid changes in the world alliances and the concept of sole super power seems dwindling with the advent of China as a competitor to USA.

Consequently, new alliance of China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey is a brilliant testimony. In addition, the Shingai Cooperation Organization (SCO) under the leadership of China is also becoming inimical to USA and its natural alliance. The sudden withdrawal of American and NATO forces and the lightning occupation of Afghanistan by Taliban bear the fact. It is expected that terrorist and miscreant elementsthat formerly had safe sanctuaries inside Afghanistan will find it difficult to carry on their ill agenda to sabotage CPEC activities. And the good news is that Taliban government has expressed its interest to be part of CPEC.China, Russia, Paksitan, Iran, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan all are on the same page and endeavouring to establish an inclusive and stable government in Afghanistan.

The leadership of Pakistan Tehreek Insaf has not only approved the Chitral Dorah Road and Chitral Shandur road but has also notified staff for land acquisition for the roads. Chitral-Shandur road will be connected to Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral-Dorah road will be connected to the Central Asian republics via Afghanistan. However, for the latter’s connectivity, peace and stability in Afghanistan is a priority.

With the connection of Central Asian Republics, Chitral will be in a leading position. Shah Salim will become a dry port and commercial hub. Tourism will be promoted. Existing cultural relationsbetween Chitral and CARs will be enhanced as majority of Chitralis trace their cultural roots to these states. Employments for the locals will be increased which will improve livelihoods of the people of Chitral. In conclusion, this connectivity will change the overall socio economic conditions of the people of Pakistan.

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