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Addressing the gaps in Dir’s economic plans
By: Syed Shujaat Ahmed

Dir, a valley and administrative district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was as princely state until its abolition in 1969. Before its division into Lower and Upper Dir,Timergara was the capital of the district till 1996.

Prior to its merger as a state,Dir was governed by Nawab Mohammad Sharif Khan and his family. With no industry or major economic activities, its economy was dependent on remittances and investments in real estate and vehicles.

In one of the recent surveys conducted by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), it was found that people of this area were mostly working in Saudi Arabia who were sending remittances. It can be seen from the recent economic melt-down in Saudi Arabia that those who came back to Pakistan, a large number of the people belong to this region. This has led to severe economic crisis leading to problems such as unemployment which has resulted in societal issues.
These issues were highlighted by thedistrict’spolice by linking them to offenses which they often dealt with. It can be noted and observed, as mentioned above, that a large number of people were mainly interested in investing remittances sent back into real estate and purchase of motor-vehicles. Owing to this reason, availability ofland reduced over the years. Hence, there is no significant agriculture activity in the area.

Dir’s economy is also hit by a severe water crisis (SDG-6) i.e. 40 to 50 percent area particularly in Lower Dir is water deficient which somehow has given rise to issues of land settlement. Similarly, difficult and challenging social trends have also hindered the economic growth of the area. For example, the area has a higher literacy rate for women, but social suppression is also on rise which has resulted in high suicide rates. This,thus, shows that achieving SDG-5 in the region is a daunting task.

With the backing of a strong Management Information System (MIS), Dir’s economic challenges can be addressed by bringing in more incentives and opportunities for those who can invest and increase the local economy’s potential

This statement can be further looked into by digging deep into the question such as ‘In Lower Dir out of 42 female Police Officers serving 36 are from Chitral’. Such type of statements also imply that the society of Dir is quite conservative with tenacious geographical and political dynamics.

Besides SDG-5, with challenges such as nutritional deficiency (SDG-2) is also another challenge hindering the economic growth and development of the region. Similarly, with the prevailing land settlement issues SDG-8 i.e. ‘decent work and economic growth’ and SDG-11 ‘sustainable cities and communities’ is difficult to achieve.
Therefore, looking into the existing situation post-merger and constitutional amendments validated by federal and provincial government, what should be done to address the economic gaps of Dir?

First, since post-merger i.e. coming into Pakistan and after going through existing constitutional amendments there is need to look into further industrial-based approach which should be overseen by the state. This can be reviewed by taking into account the orange industry which has no processing and value addition. After getting tax relief, there is a need to bring in easy processes and cost mechanisms so that money goes into the industrial development, leading to further jobs, business activities and reduction in inequality.

Secondly, to address the water deficiency in this region, there is a need for more storage facilities where clean water can be preserved and utilised. Within Malakand Division, there is a pattern of flowing waterresulting into more wastage.This flow needs to be preserved and utilisied efficiently on priority. Through this preservation, there would be an increase in agriculture activities.

Third, to sensitise gender related issues, there is need for upward educational prospects towards gender biases existing in the society. There is need for encouragement and incentivisation for those women, particularly those who are working while dealing with social and cultural taboos. This may help others to come out of the fear of social suppression,hence, significantly bringing decline in suicide rates.

In this case, it is also the responsibility of the district, provincial and federal administrations to encourage more females to come forward and become part of an active labour force of the area, including the police where they can be of great help.
With the backing of a strong Management Information System (MIS), Dir’s economic challenges can be addressed by bringing in more incentives and opportunities for those who can invest and increase the local economy’s potential. Similarly, there is need for more water preservation approaches, and address social and gender related issues. These recommendations can build the foundation for localisation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.