20 September, 2014 / Ziqa'ad 24, 1435
In this May 4, 2004 file photo, Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world, is seen from Karakorum Highway leading to neighbouring China in Pakistan's northern area. - Photo by AP
In this May 4, 2004 file photo, Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world, is seen from Karakorum Highway leading to neighbouring China in Pakistan's northern area. - Photo by AP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's once thriving mountaineering industry is reeling from the killing by militants of 10 foreign climbers, a massacre likely to drive away all but the hardiest adventurers from some of the world's tallest and most pristine peaks.

A tour company present during the attack said gunmen dressed as police ordered tourists out of tents at the 4,200-meter (13,860-foot) base camp of Nanga Parbat, the country's second highest peak, late on Saturday night, then shot them and a Pakistani guide.

The attack on the last peak over 8,000 meters (26,400 feet) in the western Himalayas has been claimed by both the Pakistani Taliban and a smaller radical group.

The foreign victims included two citizens from China, one from Lithuania, one from Nepal, two from Slovakia, three Ukrainians, and one person with joint US-Chinese citizenship.

Manzoor Hussain, president of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said at least 40 foreigners including citizens from Serbia, Italy, Ireland, Denmark and the United States, among several other nationalities, were evacuated from a higher camp.

A group of Romanians is believed to be scaling the mountain from another side. Some other groups booked for climbs this summer have already cancelled, one company said.

Hussain said the attack was a “fatal blow” for his efforts to attract more climbers to the Hindu Khush, Karakoram and western Himalayan ranges, home to many unexplored summits.

“We are still in shock, we've had to apologise to so many mountaineers across the world,” said Hussain, who described the attack as appalling and said he was devastated.

Geographically, Pakistan is a climbers paradise. It rivals Nepal for the number of peaks over 7,000 meters and is home to the world's second tallest mountain, K2, and three more that are among the world's 14 summits higher than 8,000 meters.

In more peaceful times, northern Pakistan's unspoilt beauty would be a major tourist draw, bringing sorely needed dollars to a nation that suffers repeated balance of payments crises.

Mountaineers, many from China, Russia and Eastern Europe, are among the last foreigners who regularly visit Pakistan for leisure. Tourism has been devastated since 2007 by militant attacks and fighting between the Taliban and the army in once popular tribal valleys such as Swat in the northwest.

The number of expeditions had also dwindled, but before the attack some 50 groups were expected this year in the remote Gilgit-Baltistan region, a stop over on the historic Silk Road.

That has changed following Sunday's massacre, which sparked protests on Monday in Chilas, the closest town to the base camp, which depends on climbing for income in the summer.

“I haven't slept since yesterday, it's a very sad situation,” said Ghulam Muhammed, whose company Blue Sky Treks and Tours guided five of the climbers killed at the base camp.

Blue Sky is based in the town of Skardu, which is heavily reliant on the income brought by outsiders.

“I am very worried, now business is finished, today two or three have cancelled, it is difficult now,” said Muhammed, who was in the capital Islamabad to speak to embassies and family members of the victims. “In Gilgit-Baltistan, a lot of the economy is from tourism - the money goes to transporters, hotels, markets, porters guides and cooks.”

HIPPY TRAIL

In reality, the tourist industry last thrived in the 1970s, when the “hippy trail” brought Western travellers through the apricot and walnut orchards of the Swat Valley and Kashmir on their way to India and Nepal.

Years of war in Afghanistan helped end the overland route to Asia, and Pakistan's tourism never really recovered.

While the attack on foreign climbers was a first, it did not come entirely out of the blue. Gilgit-Baltistan's Shia population has suffered a number of sectarian killings by radical Sunni groups over the past year, including one that claimed responsibility for killing the climbers.

“We have been warning the government,” Hussain said. “Security was beefed up, and there were checks on the road, but we wanted security parties for the mountaineers as well.”


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Comments (25) (Closed)


Agha Ata
Jun 25, 2013 12:00am

How sad that Pakistanis could never make any important industry of their own, and now an industry given to them by God is also gone!

Asad
Jun 25, 2013 12:59am

Downhill.

Nanak
Jun 25, 2013 01:53am

Hello! Is anyone listening?

It is not just Tourism that is affected by terrorism, it is psyche and well-being of every Pakistani has be stabbed. Tourists will be back in few years but how are you going to revive the dead soul a nation?

BRR
Jun 25, 2013 03:36am

An alien ideology is being brutally imposed people who are usually more tolerant. The lifestyle of the locals is being sacrificed for the glory of the Ummah.

Clem
Jun 25, 2013 05:59am

....would I run the Boston Marathon again? Yes! Would I use the London Subway? Yes! Movie theaters in the US? Yes! And the list goes on where Nutjobs have inflicted so much pain. Why would I go back to these places? The criminals have been caught and will be punished. In my humble opinion (and the chance of a fourth visit of myself), if Pakistan is interested in saving the livelyhood of people related to tourism (at least for Skardu and Hunza), is to catch the criminals (how hard can that be in remote mountain areas with limited access and small villages where everybody knows everybody!!) and punish them plus, make Skardu an International Airport!

Kassim
Jun 25, 2013 10:31am

All the Govt needs to do is to simply eradicate these terrorist parties from the face of this country. We have one of the world's biggest armed forces, famous intelligence agencies and yet cannot find them... its a pity to the plight of this nation.

asif ashraf
Jun 25, 2013 10:32am

with the current attitudes and methods.of the Govt there is no way it can control terrorism.

asif ashraf
Jun 25, 2013 10:43am

No insurgency can fight the might of the State. If the State has the will to fight.

Gautam
Jun 25, 2013 11:26am

Hafiz Saeed said that jihad is NOT killing Pakistanis. So I guess this is just an extension to that justification.

Kamal Gupta
Jun 25, 2013 12:07pm

American govt uses drones to target terrorists, with the apparent okay of Pakistan Govt. There is collateral damage as well. And in revenge, Ukrainian, Russian, and Chinese holiday makers are slaughtered. What a logic !

ibraheem
Jun 25, 2013 01:33pm

so sad.......why only economy growing commodities r always targeted ...... it shows that someone doesn't want Pakistan to grow........... this sad incident plus ziarat residence are the clues that pakistan would suufer a lot in future,,,,

Goga Nalaik
Jun 25, 2013 01:37pm

OMG, a sad news indeed and a disaster for tourism industry.

The whole area of Kohistan (starting from Besham till the end of Chilas) has always been dangerous. I've travelled many a times on the KKH and each time, I traversed Kohistan, I had the same feeling of insecurity (from 1987 to 1989). Mindset of these people is close to that of the taliban. Schools are badly needed in this area to help people come out of stone age.

noamanrashid
Jun 25, 2013 01:53pm

Will the killers be ever brought to justice in my life time? What our security agencies are doing, it is a real shame for all concerned.

Atta
Jun 25, 2013 05:25pm

To all the families who have lost their loved ones, We are sorry. May their souls rest in piece. (Amen). To the persons who committed this outrageous attack, enough Jihad. Please try to be a Muslim first. To those who don't know Islam, it is the most beautiful and the most practical religion. Long live Pakistan and long live Islam.

Sammy
Jun 25, 2013 10:49pm

@Kassim: How you can eradicate them when they are supported by the army and Intelegence.

Mother Nature
Jun 26, 2013 12:29pm

@Kassim: because they are busy with other stuf instead cleaning the inside mud

HUSAIN BULMAN
Jun 26, 2013 03:44pm

@Atta: Killing innocent people is not Jihad.....You dont know the definition of Jihad

AHA
Jun 26, 2013 04:49pm

@Nanak: Excellent comment. So true.

vani
Jun 26, 2013 05:34pm

@Agha Ata:

Do not worry brother, there is killing industry which is go to take over all other industries in Pakistan.

Agha Ata
Jun 26, 2013 05:49pm

Please read the article published in Dawn a few days ago that said, it is all negative- Internationale propaganda against Pakistan, the tourism can still flourish.

rana1
Jun 26, 2013 08:32pm

@Atta: the word is not jihad but murder in the name of terrorism not islam.

Pankaj
Jun 27, 2013 12:59am

@Agha Ata: this industry is not gone but kicked out by Pakistanis in the name of God itself.......

Pankaj
Jun 27, 2013 01:03am

@Atta: There can't be a muslim without Jihad, and also there can't be Jihad without muslims.... Jihad is inevitable in a muslim society.........

Jeeves
Jun 27, 2013 01:01pm

@Kassim: Dont you see the light why they are not being caught ?

Jeeves
Jun 27, 2013 02:43pm

@Agha Ata: Wow ! .... and let me guess - ISI, Mossad and CIA are involved in defaming Pakistan. Right ?