CHITRAL: The poverty-stricken people of Broghil Valley, like others in the marginalized areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), have been robbed of their fundamental right to employment by none other than a political party that claims to be the proponent of ‘change.’
In 2010 the KP government declared Broghil Valley a community- managed national park spread over 1,34,744 acres.
On September 2, 2015, the PTI-JI coalition government advertised vacancies in newspapers, including 14 posts for Broghil park project — six game watchers, two deputy rangers, one each post of SDF, office assistant, social organizer, naib qasid, watchman and driver.
Since there is no communication facility in Broghil valley, the local people were kept in dark about the vacancies. Nevertheless, a few educated youth from Broghil living in cities submitted applications. They were interviewed but after a lengthy process of scrutiny for about two years, they were not selected and non-locals were appointed on all 14 posts in sheer violation of merit.
For instance, on the post of social organizer, a woman from Mardan has been appointed. Other candidates appointed on various posts belong to Peshawar, Dir, Darosh, Sanoghar, Kosht, Mastuj, Chapari, Torkhow and Miragram.
This has prompted a strong protest from local representatives and social activists.
Amin Jan Tajik, Nazim of Broghil Village Council told The High Asia Herald that during the establishment of the park, we were assured that in appointments on various positions in the park project, locals will be given priority. Regrettably, the provincial government has failed to live up to its promise, he said.
Alleging irregularities in the appointments, Tajik said that not a single local candidate had been considered for the post of even watchman and driver what to talk of higher positions.
Tajik said in any national park, game watchers are selected from the local community as they are familiar with the geography but ironically, not a single local had been considered for the six posts of watchers. He said a local young man holding a master’s degree in botany was not considered even for the post of watcher or deputy ranger.
A woman from Mardan has been selected as a social organiser. A social organiser has an important role in mobilizing people for conservation of wildlife, he maintained.
“For a woman with a conservative Pashtun social background who doesn’t understand the local Wakhi language, it is impossible to drive for 15 hours from the project office in Mastuj to the park area and perform her duty”, Tajik argued.
If the game watchers and other staff remain absent from the valley how the project of conservation will effectively be implemented and managed, he questioned.
He warned that if the illegal appointments were not cancelled the people of Broghil will take the extreme step of setting themselves on fire in protest. He added that it was not convenient An official of the wildlife department claimed that no work had been initiated in the park as the relevant staff had never entered the valley so far.
He endorsed the concerns of local people and said that the department had decided to replicate the experience of Chitral Gol Park in Broghil but at the time of selection of game watchers, outsiders were preferred.
This was confirmed by Safdar Ali Shah, chief conservator of the wildlife department.
Who are the Wakhis of Broghil?
Broghil, situated about 250km northeast of Chitral Town, is a backward valley inhabited by Wakhi speaking people on the Pakistan-Afghan border. Historically, the Wakhi speaking people in the Broghil are the descendants of people who came to Broghil from the Wakhan corridor, which extends from China to Afghanistan, between Tajikistan and Gilgit-Baltistan.
The valley is famous for its unique culture, ecosystem, glaciers, green meadows, pastures, wildlife, wetlands, and snow-capped mountains.
The whole Broghil Valley was declared national park in 2010 to conserve a treasure of wild indigenous and migratory fauna especially of Pamirian and Siberian bird species. Kurambar Lake, from where the River Chitral originates, the 31st highest lake in the world, is also situated in Broghil.
It takes 15 hours from Mastuj, the nearest place, to drive to Shakargaz, the main town of Broghil. Only 9km Wakhan corridor separates Pakistan and Tajikistan. In winters the valley receives 10 to 12 feet (3m) snow cutting the valley from the rest of the world and freezing all economic and civic activities.
Majority of the poverty-stricken population are illiterate. Poverty and harsh weather drive them to drug addiction. Hardly any crop is grown in the valley which is situated at an altitude of 12,000 feet (4,300m). They live pastoral life raring livestock in high pastures which are the only source of their livelihood. Neither any NGO or any government organization has taken any initiative to improve their living standard or to bring them out of the cobweb of debt and addiction. They are the most neglected people in KP who have been left at the mercy of nature.