MUZAFFARABAD: A temporary ban clamped by the administration on the entry of tourists in the picturesque Neelum valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of a cross-LoC attack on an Army vehicle in the area was lifted on Tuesday to the delight of nature lovers.
Deputy Commissioner Chaudhry Mohammad Fareed told Dawn that the ban was imposed to avoid any slip-up by the tourists from the downstream areas, most of whom were not much familiar with the topography of the 200km long valley located northeast of the state capital Muzaffarabad.
The Army vehicle was hit by the Indian troops with a mortar shell between Athmuqam and Karen at the weekend, resulting in the death of four soldiers.
Soon after the incident, the administration had not only made speedy arrangements to remove tourists from the vulnerable areas to comparatively safe places but had also stopped entry of further tourists at Nauseri, the gateway to the valley located some 40km northeast of here.
“The temporary ban put in place in the interest of the safety of tourists has however been lifted today… Now tourists are at liberty to enter the valley and explore its scenic beauty as and when they like, without any hassle,” Mr Fareed said. He emphatically said that the situation in the valley had returned to “absolute normality”.
“There is no fear or any kind of threat… The road is open and the weather is awesome (for a visit),” he said.
The deputy commissioner announced that the valley would observe a “rent-free week” from Aug 1-7, in a rare show of hospitality towards its visitors from any part of the country.
“This is a token gesture of goodwill for those who did not show any sign of fear and trepidation in the wake of Sunday’s incident as well as for those who have always admired the heavenliness of the valley and have a hankering to visit it over and over again, notwithstanding odds, if any,” Mr Fareed said.
He claimed that no guesthouse or rest house, either private or public, would charge the tourists for accommodation during that week, but only for food or other items of necessity.
The deputy commissioner however advised the intending travellers to confirm availability of accommodation during that period through their tested channels beforehand so as to avoid any problems in the face of likely overcrowding.
Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2017