Motorists being asked to turn back at Landakey checkpost. — Dawn
Motorists being asked to turn back at Landakey checkpost. — Dawn

SWAT: Thousands of tourists were barred by the administration from entering Swat during the Eidul Azha holidays owing to Covid-19 pandemic that caused huge traffic jam at the entry points to the district.

The long queues of vehicles at Landakey, Shamozo and Sangar checkposts caused multiple problems to the residents of Swat.

The provincial government imposed ban on tourists to enter Swat due to coronavirus after which the district administration forbade tourists from visiting the picturesque valley.

However, thousands of tourists tried to enter Swat on the first and second days of Eidul Azha but they were stopped by police at the entry points.

“We had planned to visit Swat during the Eidul Azha holidays. We started our journey after performing sacrificial rites but we were stopped at Landakey checkpost by police asking us to go back,” said Ahmad Ali, a tourist from Mardan.

People face traffic problems as some manage to visit Shangla to enjoy Eid holidays

Many tourists alleged that VIPs and those, who had some links in the administration, were allowed to enter Swat. “I personally saw that many vehicles from Islamabad, Peshawar and Lahore were allowed to enter Swat but common people were not allowed. It means there are two laws in Pakistan for poor and rich people,” said Ikram Ali, a tourist from Peshawar.

Despite ban some tourists managed to enter Swat valley. They were seen along the Swat River in Fizagat and other areas.

“We were stopped by police at Landakey checkpost but we managed to enter Swat after a hard struggle. Now we enjoy the pleasant weather,” said Manadar, a tourist from Kohat sitting along the Swat River with his friends.

The residents of Swat, who were out of the district and wanted to come back, complained of traffic jam and long queues of tourists’ vehicles.

All Swat Hotel Association president Haji Zahid Khan said tourism was the backbone of local economy but the wrong policies affected the people associated with the industry.

In Shangla, crowds of tourists were seen in different areas despite the lockdown imposed for three days by the government due to Covid-19.

Tourists from Punjab and different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa visited scenic spots of Shangla including Yakhtangay, Bahadar Sar, Kandaw, Jabba, Ajmeer and Logay to enjoy the Eid holidays.

Local tourists also reached the picturesque areas along with their families. They prepared barbecue and other foods at the high altitude, cold and lush green pastures.

Hafeezur Rehman, a tourist from Dera Ismail Khan, said that he had planned to visit Kalam but police did not allow him so he came to Shangla and found it more beautiful and scenic.

Tourists going to Gilgit-Baltistan were also stuck in Bisham as they were stopped by police at Thor checkpost. They said that they would leave for Gilgit-Baltistan after end of lockdown.

In Mansehra, DIG Qazi Jamilur Rehman said that vehicles carrying tourists sent back from the police checkposts established in Mansehra and Balakot during Eidul Azha.

“We have sent back tourists to their respective cities from the checkposts established in Mansehra and Balakot. This practice will continue until the government lifts ban on tourism activities in the province,” he told journalists.

The DIG said that nine more police checkposts were established during Eidul Azha to ensure that tourists on way to Kaghan couldn’t move ahead. He said that hidden cameras were also installed at all police posts to monitor tourists’ activities in the district.

He said that police wanted to treat tourists with politeness but they should also respect the government order. “I also appeal to media to spread this message across country so that tourists avoid coming here to face embarrassment of going back to their respective cities from police checkposts,” said Mr Rehman.

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2020