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June 15, 2019

Inhabitants ask PM to set up national park in Kumrat valley

Peshawar

June 15, 2019

PESHAWAR: The inhabitants of the famous tourist destination, Kumrat valley in Upper Dir have asked Prime Minister Imran Khan to honour his commitment to establish a national park in the area and direct the authorities to stop selling land to businessmen from Punjab and other areas.

“A group of local people, opposing the project for national park, are behind selling local property and the businessmen from Punjab and Peshawar are purchasing it for constructing hotels and restaurants. They want to foil the national park project,” said a local from Kumrat.

Expressing satisfaction and appreciating the prime minister for promoting tourism in their area, he said the local population was anxiously waiting for the government’s action for the welfare and prosperity of their area.

Tourists from all over the country and even foreigners thronged the area during the Eidul Fitr holidays and the local businessmen witnessed sharp increase in their business.

The elders and youth alike, in their separate chats with The News, invited Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and Minister for Tourism Atif Khan to visit Kumrat to help promote tourism for the welfare and prosperity of the people.

According to the locals, the property should not be sold to outsiders as it could create problems in future. They asked the government to stop the sale of land to outsiders and declare the area as a national park.

The rush of tourists could be gauged from the fact that the Tehsil Municipal Administration (TMA), Kalkot registered the arrival of 6,000 vehicles on the first day of Eidul Fitr and received Rs50 a fee from each vehicle. The motorcycles and vehicles parked outside the limits of the TMA are not included in the statistics.

Though majority of the local population welcomed the tourists and provided them accommodation in their hujras and mosques without any charges, some tourists who stayed for many days hired the hujras on nominal charges.

“We were very happy and will again come to Kumrat,” said Shakeel who had come from Peshawar.

Former Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) MPA Mohammad Ali recalled that he had got approved Rs190 million for the construction of the Kalkot-Kumrat road and had once invited Imran Khan to visit Kumrat. “Now that Imran Khan is in power, we were hoping the construction of the road would be completed. It hasn’t happened yet,” he added.

He said that he usually provided shingle and sand to cover the muddy road and make it fit for use so that the tourists could be facilitated. He complained that the government hasn’t taken any interest to build shingled road at least to facilitate the tourists.

Though Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) MPA from the area, Bacha Saleh opposed the establishment of national park, the locals proposed that a referendum be held at the district level in Upper Dir or in the villages of Kumrat to decide the issue.

A local journalist, Mohammad Qasim, recalled that former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government had signed an agreement with the local elders in 1975 regarding their rights to property and forests. Under the agreement, he recalled that 60 percent forest royalty was to be paid to the Dir-Kohistan tribes and 40 percent to the government.

He said the tribes have the right to forest royalty but not to the property. The government, he said, was authorised to cut, sell and transport the forest.

He said it was deplorable that the Forest Development Corporation takes action if someone gets wood from the forests but remains silent if someone sells land from the same property.

Appreciating the services of former Assistant Commissioner Tanveer, one Irshad said that the officer used to come regularly and monitor activities for tourism and even followed the growth of the potatoes and vegetables grown there.

He pointed out that some locals had received Rs1,000 from the tourists for the use of a single tent but neither the TMA nor the local police took any action against such people.

However, he was confident that all the problems would be solved if the government sets up the Kumrat National Park in the area.

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