THIS is with reference to a news report carried on June 9. It is going to give a rude shock to the people of Chitral. The last time they got one was when the government declared Sharia in Chitral when Sufi Mohammad asked for it in Swat.
The report mercifully mentions ‘ambassadors, diplomats, international NGOs’ when describing a ‘foreigner’ to avoid the word ‘tourist’.
Even if the Home Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa spares tourists from obtaining an NOC ‘a fortnight or at least 12 days in advance’ (impossible for any tourist), the soldier manning the barrier is unlikely to differentiate between one category of foreigner from another when demanding an NOC.
The order will have little impact on the daily lives of people living in D.I. Khan, Tank, Hangu and other parts of Malakand mentioned in the report. It will have a serious impact on the functioning of small hotels and on the lives of guides, porters and shopkeepers of Chitral.
This is a district wrongly placed in the Malakand division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The people of Chitral have struggled hard to keep their cultural values intact and have consequently succeeded in maintaining peace and harmony in their district despite what is happening in the rest of Malakand and on Chitral’s direct border with Afghanistan.
Their scenic valleys and majestic mountains have been a major attraction for adventure-loving tourists from all over the world who have been contributing immensely and directly to the local economy.
There are no other profitable avenues available in this harsh terrain where only six per cent of the land is cultivable, mostly with a single crop. Then there are places which are too high for any crop to grow at all and where people live mainly off animal products and from money earned by working as porters for trekking groups.
It is time the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government treated Chitral as a special area when looking at it as part of the Malakand division. Failure to do so will cause resentment among the peace-loving people.
Tourists who have entered Pakistan with a valid visitor’s visa are going to get a huge shock when they are asked to get an NOC “12 days in advance” by the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The negative impact of this order will really be felt on tourism in the next season when the current lot of visitors to our country returns with horrible stories about their vacations in Pakistan.
SIRAJ ULMULK Hindukush Heights, Chitral