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US, UK, and Canada caution citizens against traveling to Gilgit-Baltistan!

ISLAMABAD: Embassies of the United States, United Kingdom and Canada have advised their citizens against traveling to Gilgit-Baltistan, according to advisories posted on their websites and social media accounts.

US embassy has advised citizens to exercise “heightened caution” due to the ongoing protest demonstrations. UK has asked its citizens to avoid non-essential travels to the region. Canada has advised its citizens to “avoid all travels” to the region.

The advisories come at a time when Gilgit-Baltistan is at the peak of summer tourism season.

Gilgit-Baltistan has been facing a volatile law and order situation for the last few weeks, because of protest demonstrations and road blockades caused by allegations of blasphemy. Section 144, which bans gatherings, remains imposed in the region to maintain law and order.

GB government had yesterday announced through a press release that Army will be deployed to maintain law and order, if needed. Contingents of paramilitary forces, like Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts, Punjab Rangers and Frontier Constabulary were also deployed along with police personnel in large numbers to maintain calm.

Protest demonstrations in the region have so far been non-violent, despite thousands of people coming on the roads. There has not been any incident of physical violence during the protests, so far.

Hate-speech has, however, created panic in the region. The government has acted strongly against hate speech and has, so far, sent 5 people, including 3 government officials, to jail for indulging in spread of “hate material” on social media.

The advisories are likely to badly affect flow of tourists to the region, known a haven for mountaineers, sightseers and trekkers.

The first ever international flight had landed at Skardu Airport on 14th of August, Pakistan’s Independence Day, raising hopes for the region’s tourism potential. The recent incidents have, however, casted a shadow on the prospects of using tourism to advance Gilgit-Baltistan’s fragile economy.

Tourism plays a significant role in the region’s economy. However, during the last several years flow of tourists was affected to a great extent by COVID-19 restrictions, floods and landslides, and the resultant destruction of infrastructure. This year, the precarious law and order situation is likely to hamper tourism-related economic activities in the region.

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