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Tourists are back in Swat

Published Sep 11, 2012 07:10am


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Visitors resting on charpoys (portable bed) on the bank of Swat River.–Photo by Dawn

MINGORA: Starting from Eid-ul-Fitr over 300,000 tourists from across the country have so far visited Swat Valley.

Confirming this, officials and residents said that during this time not a single act of violence took place in Swat valley, which is known for its archaeological sites of Gandhara civilisation and scenic hamlets. They said that a multitude of tourists were seen in Kalam, Bahrain, Madyan, Malam Jabba, Marghuzar, Saidu Baba, Fizaghat, Mingora and other spots of Swat. They said that restoration of people’s confidence to visit the valley was a great achievement for the local administration.

Since 2008 when Taliban militants loyal to Maulana Fazlullah gained control in the area and parts of Kohistan, Dir, Malakand and other protected area, most of the tourist spots presented a deserted look.

However, owing to sacrifices rendered by people of Swat and law-enforcement agencies for restoration of peace the tourists have started reaching the valley in droves to enjoy serenity and beauty of small hamlets of Swat and cultural heritage.

Internally displaced persons return to Swat. – File photo by AP

People of Swat are known for their hospitality; they welcome visitors with open heart, accommodate them in their homes and hujras (guesthouses) and serve food free of cost to encourage and provide them opportunity to enjoy their tour. However, some hotel owners, tandoor walas (bakers), and petrol pump owners at the main tourist stations have been fleecing tourists on the pretext of artificial shortage of various items. During rush of tourists, Rs2,000 to Rs8,000 is charged for a single room for one night stay in hotels while the price of petrol touches as high as Rs550 per litre.

Khurshid Ahmed, a resident of Bahrian, told this scribe that about 300 motorcycles were seen stranded in different areas and over 1,600 tourists trapped in Kalam due to shortage of petrol during past few days. He said that work on Kalam-Havad road should be completed as proper communications system was vital to growth of tourism.

Kalam Hotels Association general secretary Rahmat Din Siddiqi told a correspondent that this year the number of tourists remained satisfactory despite unfavourable conditions. He said that his union would take action against those hotel owners who had been fleecing visitors by demanding high prices.

He also called upon the government to rebuild roads damaged in 2010 floods and restore telephone facilities to different spots to attract more visitors in next season. He also demanded upgradation of Kalam hospital and appointment of specialist doctors there.

In this May 24, 2012 photo, people sit near a sculpture of the Buddha whose face was destroyed by Taliban fighters at Jahanabad, Pakistan in the Swat valley. – AP

Sub-divisional magistrate, Madyan, Mohammad Naeem claimed that after reports of artificial price-hike the administration checked various food outlets and petrol pumps, and imposed fines on profiteers.

A large number of tourists also visited Malam Jabba Ski Resort, but due to lack of facilities the tourists retuned half-hearted. The dilapidated condition of Malam Jabba road and damaged building of PTDC also forced the tourists to turn to other places.

DSP Madyan Naveed Iqbal said that police personnel had been deployed at various points to ensure smooth flow of traffic.

However, he said that due to poor condition of Bahrian-Kalam road and rush of tourists the traffic jams were seen on some points on Kalam-Bahrian road, especially during Eid days.

Mr Iqbal said that there was complete peace in Swat and urged tourists to visit the valley without any fear. He said that that police was vigilant and providing full security to tourists. He claimed that not a single incident of sabotage occurred during Eid days.

Comments (25) Closed

Yawar Sep 12, 2012 12:42am
Why would a foreign tourist visit Swat while there is continued threat of kidnapping for ransom in Pakistan? It is time we reclaimed all of Pakistan from known terrorist groups.
Siraj Ahsan Sep 12, 2012 04:27am
do you really think people will come to north of pakistan? Pakistan is still under travel advisory no one will ever come to Pakistan till Pakistanis change their attitude. Why to go to Pakistan when you can go to Switzerland and see mountains. Cheap it maybe but life is not guaranteed.
furqan Sep 12, 2012 01:21am
Arab tourists go to India for "tourism". They rarely go to see Egyptian Pyramids either. What Swat really attracts is Chinese, Korean, Japanese tourists to come to see the birth place of Budhism & it Books and relics. Have peace and quality-of-life, world will come!
Syed I Ali Khan Sep 11, 2012 07:16pm
These pictures have not done justice to the actual beauty of the Swat valley. I have to this valley numerous times. The scenery is surreal. I was told by a European tourist that Swat was second to none, not even the Swiss Alps. There is a huge potential for tourism. The valley is a stretch of lush-green flower-laden meadows, tempting and breathtaking rocks for rock climbing. The Mahodand lake looks like a peice of paradise! The sheer cliff overlooking the lake is a sight I can never forget. The lake is so so so panoramic! The lake has a tremendous potential to become a focus of tourism activities like rock climbing, fishing, eating, hotelling, camping, base-camp of trekking, and the list goes on...The places (meaning lakes, valleys) beyond Mahodand lake inbite the visitors to many more lakes and treks. The gushing springs and rivers flowing throught the towns of Madian and Behrain are unbelievalbe. I can only imagine what an experience it would be to motor glide, or canoe over and in those gushing streams gliding or swimming through the banks flanked by sheer rocks on both sides. Oh! I am again falling in love with Swat; I miss the valley sitting in USA. If the govt could give me one responsibility, I would ask for tourism!
dr aysha mansoor Sep 12, 2012 01:02pm
may peace prevails every was not an easy journey.....God bless our country and put more tolerance and human values in masses
dr aysha mansoor Sep 12, 2012 01:04pm
good idea but only if governments take real interest and promote tourism on larger scale
Zulfi Sep 13, 2012 02:03am
what a shame that as people we cant share our common heritage!
G.A. Sep 11, 2012 11:46am
Local tourists is a good news. But Pakistan desperately needs foreign tourists. It would be good for PTDC to target oil-rich Arab countries who mostly are not even aware of such gems only a couple of hours of flight away from them. East Asians tourists would have a natural interest towards Buddhist relics in this area. It will earn Pakistan a lot of goodwill provided facilities are provided.
M Rizwan Sep 13, 2012 12:13am
Agreed. You can see their love for peace in Burma....
BRR Sep 13, 2012 05:12am
There is a whole wide world out there, and too many choices. Quite a few where people have proper facilities ready for tourists, and tourists are made welcome. Swat may be nice, but it one of several. It will have to compete with those that are much more safe, easy to get to, and hassle free. I could rattle off a bunch of places that qualify for that, including Alaska, Sweden, New Zealand, Patagonia, Colorado, etc.
mohammad Iqbal Sep 11, 2012 10:35am
I use to visit swat every year with my family before hell broke in this beautiful valley. Now as the reports suggest that everything is fine and normal. May be again I will try to visit this earthly heaven . Pakistanis can be devided into two classes. Those who have seen swat and those who have not so far. I love you swat
Mohammed Irfan Sep 11, 2012 01:14pm
I have been to Swat just before the fighting as a matter of fact we were in the hotel when we found out that Gen Musharaf had put emergency law.. I can honestly say that it really is a wonderful place and we loved it and would love to go back there again and as far as the local people are concerned they benefit greatly from visitors so please think about them if not anybody else and lets all work for PEACE
Khan usafzai Sep 12, 2012 12:37am
Great news that sanity prevails to the beautiful paradise of Pakistan ... Its a beautiful and relatively easily and near , beauty of north you can enjoy with your family....
Mahmood Sep 11, 2012 09:02pm
Its really great to see Swat is coming back to life. Every tourist arrival in Swat is the defeat of the extremist element there. Hope to see all the northern Pakistan cleansed of all the extremism soon and play my part as well by visiting it.
Dhanus Menon Sep 12, 2012 04:14am
Your ancestors the Budhists were probably much peaceful people.
Rizwan Sep 11, 2012 08:47pm
you'd be surprised at how many Koreans visit Swat and Takhat-e-bhai
Raj Sep 12, 2012 07:19am
I would love to visit Pakistan if granted tourist visa.
Muhammad Ahmed Mufti Sep 11, 2012 05:15pm
Foreigners are not well informed about local culture hence Sawat will be served better if Pakistani diaspora visits it.
saulat Sep 12, 2012 10:37am
Great News !!!! .. Hopefully foreign tourists will also return to pakistan in near future ..
Akbar Ali Khan, Malak of Kuzabandai Sep 13, 2012 06:06am
Akbar Ali Khan, Swat is my home town though these days I am away from it, but when ever I hear about the condition then for long hours I felt myself be there around the greenery and getting enjoyment from the natural beauty. I would recommend rest of the Pakistanis to visit rapidity so that the innocent people of the area could wash and forget the terrible past of 5 to 6 years. I love my home land.
Ashutosh Sep 13, 2012 05:01am
As one of the theory Srivastava's community in India originated on the banks of this beautiful river. This is my die hard wish to visit this land during my life time. I wish this comes true someday.
Akram Sep 11, 2012 11:01am
Inshallah, next time I'm in Pakistan I intend to go to Swat. Time to reclaim it from the ignorant.
Abbas Sep 12, 2012 03:04pm
Reading this article reminds me the time when I was in Pakistan and visited this beautiful valley in the year 1995-1996 as a student. Its worth to see this area and people. They are Lovelly and friendly . I wish them safe and happy life. Pray to Allah(swa) that peace should return to whole Pakistan especially KP.
Lakhkar Khan Sep 12, 2012 02:41pm
The way India and Pakistan relationship is progressing, I hope it stays that way, I am sure you will get the opportunity to get visa soon. Swat valley is known for rich history and natural beauty. I been there dozens of times and going to visit again soon.
Usman Chaudhry Sep 12, 2012 02:09pm