GILGIT: Paragliding is becoming popular sport with youth, including females, in Gilgit-Baltistan, but lack of facilities is hindering its development.
Sani Zahara, 14, and a 9th class student from Nagral village of Gilgit town, became the region’s youngest female paraglider when she recently jumped from a mountain of Sultanabad, near Gilgit town and successfully landed after flying over Gilgit town.
She told Dawn that it was thrilling experience and she was so happy flying over Gilgit town, viewing nearby mountains and river.
“It is an adventure, a thrilling sport, and is not dangerous as people perceive,” she said. “It is a technical sport and needs courage. Flying over the Gilgit valley was her dream.”
Vowing to compete nationally and internationally, she said female participants in the sport were few and that she would train more female youngsters in the sport. She, however, said she had limited sources and opportunities.
Young paragliders complain about lack of facilities
‘Big Wing’ is the first school of paragliding in GB started by Khalid Hussain and Noor Ali Baig in 2015. Sani Zahara is the first female to get training from the school.
Ali Baig, who is CEO of the school, said so far they had trained over 50 youngsters for paragliding in Gilgit, including a few females. He said currently 80 students were enrolled in the school.
Mr Baig said paragliding was not rocket science, and after two days of ground training, they could fly from a 50-foot to 500-foot height.
He said GB had huge potential for the adventure sport as it was an ideal destination for paragliding.
However, he said they lacked facilities as a single kit of paragliding cost Rs1 million.
“A paraglider needs two parachutes for flying because if one parachute does not work he/she can use the other,” Mr Baig said.
Khalid Hussain, who is trainer at the school, said GB youngsters were interested in the sport, however, lack of resources were main hurdle to train them. “If we have government assistance, we can compete internationally and promote adventure tourism.”
Mr Hussain said they could also introduce this sport to national tourists who wished to roam the valleys where road access was not available.
“GB has huge potential for adventure tourism, promoting paragliding and generating revenue.”
He said pilots from across the world came to GB to test their skills in its unique and challenging environment.
However, sometimes paragliding proves dangerous as a renowned paragliding pilot and parachutist, Hidayatullah Baig, was killed while landing in Gupis area of Ghizer in 2016. A similar incident was also reported from Hunza some years ago.
According to experts, paragliding in Pakistan began in early 1980s when foreign pilots started coming to GB (then Northern Areas) of Pakistan.
Syed Sajjad Hussain Shah was the Pakistan’s first paraglider pilot.
A French pilot took off from the Broad Peak and safely landed at its base camp.
Paragliding is weather dependent sport and flying season starts in April and ends in October.
Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2019