CHITRAL: With the inauguration of the much-awaited Lowari tunnel on July 20 after its completion, the demand for land has registered an exponential increase, shooting up its prices in Chitral.
A number of property dealers observed that the upward jump in the price of land was triggered back in 2005 when work was started on the construction of tunnel, and the property rates peaked when it was made fully operational last month, giving an all-weather route to the district.
Shaheen Shah, a property dealer, told Dawn the price of a piece of land measuring 11,664 square foot) in the heart of Chitral town was about Rs800,000 before 2005, but jumped to above Rs12 million, a 12 times increase, as the tunnel was made fully operative.
He said most of the prospective purchasers were non-locals, causing the phenomenal increase in the prices of land as they bid higher and higher.
“Such is the case with the demand and prices of land in different roadside villages of Chitral, including the major towns of Drosh, Booni, Garam Chashma, Mastuj and Ayun,” he said, adding land prices had increased 10 times in these areas since the work on the tunnel was started 12 years ago.
The property dealer observed that more than 80 per cent of his clients were non-locals, majority of whom from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa followed by Punjab.
Abdul Ghafar, another property dealer, said with the construction of Lowari tunnel, there were bright prospects of Chitral being converted into a business hub due to its connection with the Central Asian Republics through the Wakhan corridor.
“The possibility of turning Chitral into an alternative route of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has worked as catalyst in increasing the prices of land,” he said.
Giving another reason for escalating land prices, he said the people in upper and remote parts of Chitral preferred to settle down in the towns as they availed better civic amenities there.
MPA Syed Sardar Hussain Shah said as per the constitution, no person could be barred from purchasing a moveable or immoveable property in any part of the country, and as such the process of purchase of land by the non-locals in Chitral could not be stopped.
He said the landowners could not resist the temptation of exorbitant prices being offered to them.
Mr Shah said if a popular movement was launched like the one in Hunza of Gilgit-Baltistan, where no outsider could purchase land although he could take it on rent only for a limited period, the trend of selling land could be arrested.
Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2017