A case for Chitral: Gwadar of the north â€“ The Express Tribune ISLAMABAD: The Prince of Chitral, Shahzada Iftikharuddin, has a dream â€“ to make his district the Gwadar of the north. His dream, very precise, very visual, is based not on assumptions or a fertile imagination, but on facts that he puts forth proudly. â€œChitral district consists of 20% of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwaâ€™s total area and its potential is backed by reserves of granite, gemstones, and metals worth an estimated Rs177 billion,â€ he says in an exclusive interview, his eyes animated. â€œAnd this is not all. Yes, Chitral has many problems but I am an optimist. I am also aware of the huge enormous hydro power, tourism and mineral potential of a district that boasts one of the highest literacy rates in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.â€ A man with a vision Iftikharuddin, the only MNA elected on a ticket of All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) â€“ former president Pervez Musharrafâ€™s party â€“ has carried this dream with him for a while. He has painstakingly prepared documents that illustrate his regionâ€™s superior mineral wealth, geographical advantage and energy capability. According to these documents, the reservoirs of marble and granite â€“ 45 billion metric tons â€“ are alone worth $500 to $1,000 billion. The K-P government has planned to establish a marble city in Chitral, for which funds have been allocated in the 2013-2014 budget. â€œDevelopment of the Chitral cluster can create 3,000 direct and indirect jobs for the youth,â€ says Iftikharuddin confidently. â€œThe government can earn Rs15 billion through granite reserves and Rs30 billion through marble reserves. Because of the marble city, 20 factories may be established, with each earning Rs600 million annually.â€ However, according to him, the â€œcriminal negligenceâ€ of political leaders has kept the region from its true potential. With his plans, documents and extensive study, he hopes to remedy just that. A place in the world According to Iftikharuddin, Chitralâ€™s geo-strategic importance must not be undermined. â€œChitral is, in no way, less than Gwadar. It is K-Pâ€™s largest district, and its proximity to China, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan certainly adds to its importance,â€ he remarks. Pakistan is separated from Tajikistan by a 5-10km narrow strip, through Wahkhan. The documents illustrate that if Pakistan negotiates with Afghanistan to find out a passage into Tajikistan, Chitralâ€™s geo-strategic position can be greatly enhanced from a trade point of view. Tajikistan is a potential market for Pakistani goods, while Pakistan is a potential buyer of cheap raw materials and minerals from Tajikistan. â€œFurthermore, if Pakistan allows India to trade with Tajikistan through the Broghal pass, it would render the area into a transit economy. It is a long standing dream of Pakistanis to earn transit money,â€ he explains. â€œThe good news is that Tajikistan has already developed its bordering areas by building roads and bridges.â€ He adds that Afghanistan is also establishing its silk road with China. â€œIf we manage to build a road to access to Afghanistanâ€™s silk route running through the Wahkhan strip, we can have another alternate route available for China and Afghanistan. This will further strengthen not only trade relations with Tajikistan, Afghanistan and China, but also open a new chapter in Pak-China military relations,â€ he says. Furthermore, Afghanistanâ€™s province Badakhshan, which lies in close proximity to Chitral, has enormous coal reserves. Because it is isolated due to its terrain and remoteness, a 10 km road, costing Rs2.5 billion, is already being built from Mastuj to Broghal to connect Badakhshan with Chitral. A plea for effective projects â€œThere are dozens of sites here where hydropower projects can be constructed,â€ says Iftikharuddin. â€œThese projects can provide 10,000MW to 12,000MW of electricity garnered from rivers. We donâ€™t need to construct big dams worth billions of dollars.â€ According to him, a fresh feasibility study has been ordered at the Atakh Water Channel, where Rs140 million worth of resource has already been wasted. â€œThe government should provide funds for Chitralâ€™s ongoing mega projects. I met several ministers and put in writing an Rs4 billion request for the Lowari Tunnel, in addition to the revised cost estimates for mega projects such as the Booni-Buzund and Booni Shandoor roads,â€ he says. â€œThe delay in projects of vital importance will be paid for by the poor sections of our society.â€ Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2013.