KATHMANDU: Even though Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) airplanes were last seen in Kathmandu in mid-December 2014, a memorial monument known as the PIA memorial park still attracts some local and international tourists.
Nestled in lush green mountains in Lele Valley of the Nepalese capital, there lies a monumental park constructed by PIA for the 167 people who lost their lives on-board flight PK-268 from Karachi to Kathmandu, which crashed into a cloud-covered hill on Sept 28, 1992 in the hilly region of Bhatte Dandda in Lele.
Lele is a scenic valley, about 16 kilometres from the city of Lalitpur, in Kathmandu. The valley is flocked with tourists owing to its picturesque landscape, where people relish natural beauty with a peaceful environment.
Located in the lap of a thickly forested hill at Lele, the memorial park is a combination of natural beauty and serenity.
It can be accessed by travelling on a zig-zag route with small scenic villages on one side and never-ending mountains on the other.
Babu Ram, an elderly man, is one of the two guards at the memorial park who take care of the plants and ensure the park's cleanliness.
Both the guards have been hired and paid by PIA since the memorial was constructed.
"I have been working here since the construction of the park ... it feels special to work with the Pakistani Airlines," he says, adding that few Pakistanis and many Europeans visit the park on September 28 every year.
"Some Nepalis also visit the park on holidays but a majority of foreigners — who are relatives of the dead from the plane crash — come to commemorate their loved ones," he adds.
Both the guards get 5,000 Nepali rupees per month for their job.
The lush green grass with a path made from cement leads from a small gate to the upper section where the memorial monument has been erected.
In a circular shape with openings on lower and upper ends, the names of the dead passengers have been inscribed.
From the entrance gate to the final monument, one has to pass through a small hut-shaped room with brief information about the park inscribed on white marble stones in different languages.
"I think there are about 12 stones with information about the park in different languages. The languages seem to represent the dead passengers’ national languages," says Sadia Kamal, a Pakistani visitor at the park.
"There are different blocks specified for each country with its passengers’ names. The structure has been designed in a beautiful way like a circular exhibition hall," she adds.
"Thanks to the two guards, the park is clean, well-maintained and properly managed."
Though the park has sitting spaces and toilet facilities, a glance at the locks on its gates tells they have not been used for years.
Nabin Luitel, a journalist in Kathmandu, says he along with his friends often visits the park as its location is ideal. "The park is situated at a calm and serene location where one gets peace so we visit here on holidays," he says.
He says even though PIA has discontinued its flights, the park reminds them of Pakistan, and he hopes that PIA would soon resume its Kathmandu operations.