GILGIT: The tourism department of Gilgit-Baltistan is under fire for its alleged failure to issue trekking permits to at least two dozen foreign tourists who arrived in Skardu to visit the base camps of towering cliffs, including the world’s second-highest mountain K-2.

The K-2 base camp trek is the most popular hike for foreign trekkers as they can visit Baltoro Glacier, Gasherbrum-I, Gasherbrum-II, Broad Peak and K-2 base camps from Concordia.

However, travel agents and tourists have complained that they were not issued permits by the department even though they fulfilled all the requirements.

Tour operator Ghulaam Ahmed said the tourism department was “reluctant to issue trekking permits” and added that tourists had been “waiting for more than one month” to receive permission to start trekking towards the base camps. The long delays in the approval of the permits also resulted in many tourists cancelling their plans, he added.

Tour operators say tourists are cancelling plans to visit K-2 base camp due to delays

“Recently, [at least] 10 foreign tourists who had visited Pakistan for the K-2 base camp trek returned after not getting permits; it was also embarrassing for tour operators as as they couldn’t cater to the demand of their clients,” he added.

Mohammad Ali Nagri, head of Adventure Pakistan, told Dawn that the family of deceased Austrian climber Gerfried Goschl, who died in 2012 on Gasherbrum-I, was waiting for the trekking permits in Skardu so that they could visit the base camp of Gasherbrum-I to honour the memory of the deceased mountaineer.

Goschl’s wife and two daughters aged 11 and 13 wanted to visit the base camp to mark 10 years of the death of their father, but they have not been issued the permits so far. The family has to return on July 26 and if they are not issued trekking permits, it would be quite embarrassing for the tour company and the country.

The family of Goschl contributed to welfare projects in Pakistan as well, he said, adding that the tourism department did not give any reason for the delay in giving permits.

Sajid Hussain, deputy director of the GB tourism department, told Dawn that foreign tourists needed to apply for permits online before coming to Pakistan. The online process doesn’t take much time and in some cases the tourism department has issued permits within three days, he added.

He said when foreign tourists apply for trekking or expedition permits after their arrival they need to do that manually and the process could take up to 28 days. The official added that as per the guidelines, such applications needed to go through security clearance before the issuance of the permits.

‘Missing’ mountaineers return

Meanwhile, two mountaineers Imtiaz Sadpara from Skardu and Hassan Shigri from Shigar arrived at the base camp after a successful summit of Nanga Parbat (8,126m). Mr Sadpara and Mr Shigri were part of an eight-member team that attempted to scale the mountain. However, the foreign mountaineers had returned from camp-3 due to bad weather conditions, while Mr Shigri and Mr Sadpara continued their journey towards the top.

Diamer Deputy Commissioner Fayyaz Ahmed confirmed that the two mountaineers had arrived at the base camp and were in stable condition.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2022

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