Karim Mohammad Khan
Gilgit-Baltistan is a distinctive territory as it is bounded with the world’s three gigantic mountain ranges such as the Hamaliayas, Karakorum and Hindukush. It is also the gate way to the Central Asian States. Further, the largest glaciers of the world except of the poles are also located in these mountain chains along with vivid and pristine natural lakes in its laps and that always creates a center of attention in the minds and hearts of visitors. Hence, thousands of tourists and nature lovers from inland and abroad visit the region every year particularly in summer season.
Owing to them, the mountain communities get opportunities to enhance their income by selling their fruits, vegetables, goods and by providing services in the form of porter, guide, driver, cook and land and hotel owners.
Before 9/11, foreign tourists visited the area in large number and mostly jobless youth earned a lot to meet the basic necessities of their households. But, after twin tower terrorist attack in the USA, the war on terror was brought to Afghanistan and that had destructive implications for Pakistan and one of them was abruptly decline of the foreign tourists’ to the country in general and to GB in particular. Some foreign tourists were targeted a couple years ago at Nanga Parbat base camp in GB which had negative impact on the socio-economic condition of the local people.
However, large number of tourists visited GB last year to enjoy the natural beauties and amazing scene of the region as security issue is getting improved gradually due to military operation. But, there is still a long way to go in making security condition smooth by implementing National Action Plan in its true spirit. No stone should be left unturned in eradicating terrorism, their abettors and facilitators irrespective of their faith, sect and caste. In this connection, religious, political and social figures can also influence their followers to maintain peace and harmony through respecting others’ views and leaders.
Finally, GB Government and tourism department need to develop safe, conducive and well coming environment by establishing tourist resorts, hotels and guest houses in remote worth seeing places of the region. Good health and hygiene facilities like safe drinking water, open toilets, neat, clean and green surroundings with dustbins placed need to be ensured. CPEC would also be instrumental in boosting up tourism industry in GB through building infrastructures such as roads, bridges and power generation infrastructure.
To behave well with tourists, awareness programmes for the local residents should be held so that the outsider may feel friendly and safe when passing or residing in certain area. Last but not least, electronic, print and social media should also expose the breath taking and mesmerizing places, unique cultures of the residents and present the soft and positive image to the world. Hence, great potential of this industry can be exploited in GB that would help to alleviate poverty resulting in improved socio-economic conditions of the residents.