SWAT/MANSEHRA: Thousands of tourists visited scenic areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during Eid holidays, making a beeline for Hazara and Malakand regions as mercury shot up in the plains of the country.
As tourists escaped to mountains to seek relief from the sweltering July heat, thousands of motorists were stuck on the roads in one of the worst traffic jams with the local roads lacking capacity for a sudden spike in traffic.
Over 250,000 tourists in about 100,000 vehicles entered Swat valley from different parts of the country to spend the vacations of Eidul Azha, leaving Mingora to Kalam road completely jammed.
Tourists from Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab and different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa visited various scenic spots including Marguhzar, Malam Jabba, Miandam, Gabin Jabba, Madyan, Bahrain, Kalam, Mahondand, Shahi Bagh in Swat. A large number of tourists spent nights in the open along the Swat River as there was no room in the hotels.
Unprecedented number of tourists visit Malakand and Hazara on Eid days
Swat Deputy Commissioner Junaid Khan said that more than 250,000 tourists entered Swat since the second day Eidul Azha till Sunday. “The flow of tourists to Swat has not stopped yet as a big number of vehicles are still coming,” he added.
The tourists, who visited Swat for the first time, said that they enjoyed the scenic valley.
“There is scorching heat in our area so we decided to visit Swat and our choice was not wrong as the weather is pleasant and every part of the valley is beautiful,” said Abdul Rashid, a tourist from Balochistan, who visited Swat with his friends.
He said that he and his friends did not want to go back to the scorching heat but there was no other option for them.
Many tourists spent nights along the Swat River and enjoyed the pleasant weather. “We tried to find rooms in hotels but nearly all the hotels were fully packed. Ultimately, we had to spend a night along the Swat River. Thanks to local people, who provided us with mats and pillows,” said Azeem Iqbal, a tourist from Rawalpindi.
Many tourists were found dancing in groups along the Swat River, others were enjoying meals and many others taking selfies.
Swat Hotel Association president Zahid Khan said that there were about 1,600 hotels and restaurants in Swat and nearly all were full of tourists.
However, local residents said they faced many issues owing to the massive traffic jam due to which they could not even come out of their houses.
“There is an urgent need of another road along the eastern side of the Swat River beyond Madyan town up to Kalam. The present infrastructure in Upper Swat is not sufficient for such a huge number of tourists,” said Zubair Torwali, a social and cultural activist in Bahrain.
He said that the local women visited each other in the villages across the Swat River during Eid days but the massive traffic jam restricted them to their homes.
“The influx of such a huge number of tourists is a chaos for the locals,” he added.
Swat DPO Dilawar Bangash said that additional police were deployed at the tourist spots while tourism police along with regular police were ensuring smooth flow of traffic and a peaceful environment there.
However, he said that due to wrong driving and ignoring traffic rules by the tourists Bahrain to Kalam road witnessed a traffic jam. “We have deployed additional traffic police on the road to ensure smooth flow of traffic,” he said and appealed to the tourists to respect traffic laws to avoid gridlocks.
Kaghan valley also received the highest number of tourists on Eidul Azha. The roads leading to the scenic valley remained choked with the vehicles and eateries crowded with local and foreign visitors.
“We have received around 700,000 vehicles carrying tourists in the valley so far. More motorists are on way to this picturesque destination,” DPO Asif Bahadur told journalists here on Sunday.
The tourists, who started rushing to Kaghan valley since the first day of Eidul Azha, have still largely been pouring in. “We have never seen such a huge number of vehicles entering the valley. We have been doing our best to maintain the traffic flow within the available resources and personnel,” he said.
The local and foreign tourists visited Babusar Top, Saiful Muluk Lake, Lolusar and Dodipat Sar.
“Mansehra-Naran-Jalkhad road, which links Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with Gilgit-Baltistan, is in a dire need of blacktopping and repir,” said Mohammad Jabran, a tourist from Karachi.
He said that until MNJ road and arteries leading to Saiful Muluk Lake were not carpeted, the prime minister’s tourism vision of ‘Clean and Green Pakistan’ couldn’t meet success.
Hussain Deen, the chairman of the hoteliers association in Kaghan, said that hotels and restaurants were occupied by the visitors. “The hoteliers and visitors have strictly been following coronavirus SOPs set by the government for the tourism industry,” he added.
Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2021