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Chitral-Tajikistan Road Plan

Saturday 17 September 2011

GILGIT (The Dardistan Times) – The legislative Assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan (GBLA) has passed a resolution that demands that the Tajikistan-Pakistan connecting road must be constructed through Ghizar District of Gilgit-Baltistan.

The resolution submitted by Nawaz Khan Naji – a GBLA member from Ghizar – was passed by the house unanimously. Members of the GBLA maintained that the two countries should revisit their decision of surface connectivity through Chitral and stick with their initial plan which was to route the road from Ishkoman of Ghizar to Ishkashim of Tajikistan.

Recently the two countries have agreed to go with the Chitral- Ishkashim surface connectivity plan that they deem appropriate, feasible, safe and economical. On September 09, 2011 Dr. Arbab Alamgir, minister of Communications visited Tajikistan and met with the Prime Minister of Tajikistan, Mr. Oqil Oqilov and the Foreign minister of Tajikistan, Mr. Hamrakhon Zarifi. During the visit, the road connectivity remained a hot topic.

Ishkoman is a high mountain valley in the Hindukush and Karakorum mountains, in the northwest region of Gilgit in the Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan. Ishkoman is connected to the Yasin Valley and Chipursan (in Gojal Hunza) valley by a high mountain pass.

The ownership of Ishkoman has changed hands several times over the time. It has been under the rule of the Mehtar of Chitral, the Maharaja of Kashmir, or the Raja of Punyal at different times in the past. Although sparsely populated, Ishkoman was important because it leads to a high mountain pass, to Yarkhun in Chitral, and then to Broghol Pass, the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan, and into Tajikistan. During British rule, the government was concerned that Ishkoman could have formed an invasion route from Czarist Russia into India.

The primary language of Ishkoman area is the Khowar language. Wakhi, Burushaski and Shina languages are also spoken. With the arrival of Tajik’s from neighbouring Tajikistan, a sizeable number of the population speaks Tajik as well.

Prior to 1978, Gilgit-Baltistan was cut off from Pakistan and rest of the world due to the harsh terrain and the lack of accessible roads. All of the roads to the south opened towards the Pakistani-controlled state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AKJ) and to the southeast towards the present-day Indian-controlled state of Jammu and Kashmir. During the summer, people could walk across the mountain passes to travel to Rawalpindi. The fastest way to travel, however, was by air, but air travel was accessible only to a few privileged local people and to Pakistani military and civilian officials. Then, with the assistance of the Chinese government, Pakistan began the construction of the Karakoram Highway (KKH), which was completed in 1978. The Karakoram Highway (KKH) connects Islamabad to Gilgit and Skardu, which are the two major hubs for mountaineering expeditions in Gilgit-Baltistan. The journey from Rawalpindi/Islamabad to Gilgit takes approximately 20 to 24 hours. Landslides on the Karakoram Highway are very common. The KKH connects Gilgit to Tashkurgan and Kashgar in China via Sust (the customs and health inspection post on the Northern Areas side) and the Khunjerab Pass, the highest paved international border crossing in the world at 4,693 metres.

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