General Pervez Musharraf has commended his soul to Allah Almighty after a long illness. May his soul rest in peace! We Chitralis are beholden to him for his courageous initiative to open a tunnel under Lawari Pass which had been the hardest hindrance in the path for all the inhabitants of Chitral.
The avalanches from this pass and the nearby mountains have caused casualties of thousands of Chitralis while trying to cross it in winters. That death toll was higher after 1895 because before that Chitralis did not need to cross that pass even in summers except Katoor 2nd who had been forced to take Lawari pass route to seek refuge in Dir due to our relations with other states like Yasin, Badakhshan, Kunar etc. but had no need to go across Lawari to Dir or any other Pathan territory. Lawari became important after arrival of British forces via this pass in April 1895 under command of General Low.
After the agreement of accession of Chitral with Pakistan the importance of Lawari escalated and Pathan traders began to pour into Chitral for trading opportunities. This measure also opened avenues for Chitralis but after the decline of the ruling family of Chitral and appointment of Assistant Political Agent at Chitral by the then NWFP provincial government the route became a more important position and pedestrian traffic increased many times over.
Trade of essential commodities, timber, state officials, students, labourers etc. increased and winter brought misery to all the travelers. At that stage an idea for a tunnel under the Pass was envisaged and discussed by the Chitrali travelers and was demanded at various fora, and by a great number of the socially active members of the Chitrali society. It was submitted before Z.A. Bhutto in the 70s. He was a man of extraordinary ambitions and promised to connect Chitral with the rest of the country and ordered to survey the feasibility and then allocated funds while he was still at the helm of affairs but it was the misfortune of Chitralis that he was put to death by a dictator and further work on the tunnel was stopped.
When General Perwez Musharraf took over he began to take interest in resuming the work on the tunnel after a number of processions by Chitralis in different cities of the country. Musharraf vowed to build it. He visited the site, took pity on the woes of travelers from Chitral in winters and repeated his promises to build it to show his sympathy with Chitralis but he had got a broader vision and the Tunnel was one of the major steps to access Central Asian States with a number of opportunities for different sectors like trade, tourism, defense etc.
The same PC1 was revised and work was initiated under meticulous supervision of the President. Funds were issued and construction work was commenced on both sides- the Dir side was already a km long tunnel built during the PPP government from 1971 to 77 but from the Chitral side it was to be inaugurated and President Musharraf reached the site and inaugurated the work among a loud applause of ‘Musharraf Zindabad.’ He fulfilled his pledges and earned the reputation as builder of Lawari Tunnel. Now we enjoy good transport service via the tunnel which we owe to him and have to recall his kindness now and in the days to come.
In my updated map of Chitral, I have named the Dir side gate as ‘ Babe Zulfiqar’ and the Chitral side entrance as ‘Babe Musharraf’ after the two great personalities and that map is already hanging on the walls of many offices, guest houses, government and private schools. These phrases can be seen if scanned with interest and also by those who claim to ‘Love Chitral’. This was put on the map in memory of the two great pioneers who worked for the construction of the Lawari tunnel which had been rejected by other political leaders of short vision with anti Chitral approach, shown in various shapes during their political careers. General Musharraf actualized a vision and deserves to be remembered by the people of Chitral. Though he is now not among us but we shall never forget his great kindness to Chitralis.