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    Chitral – Tourism and impacts then and now……………Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig

    Adventure tourism in Chitral had started after the occupation of Chitral by the British Indian Forces in 1895 that increased tremendously in the following years under State support and was quite an organized system when it entered the 50s and more teams began to pour into Chitral after the first ascent of Terich Mir in 1950 via south Barum glacier of Oveer  valley  and that triumph triggered the Oxford  Saraghrar Expedition via Roshgol sub valley of Terich in 1958 which failed due to a fatal accident of one of the climbers, Mr. Nelson. The next year i.e. in 1959  an Italian team led by Fosco Mairaini, a renowned Anthropologist,  ascended the 7349m high virgin summit of Saraghrar via Ziwar valley. These were the immediate precursors of the huge groups of climbers that reached Chitral and trekked from Chitral town to the base of the peaks in the large conglomeration of the High Hindu Kush, selected by them with their baggage on donkeys as well as porters. A porter of that expeditions from Koragh village used to tell  stories of his youth that he was also engaged by the expeditions  to carry their luggage from Koraagh to Uthool village of Mulkho below Zani Pass ( 3884m) and received two Rupees for the day long labour but it was still coveted as a part time income.

    At that stage of adventure sports in the HinduKush  as well as in Hindu Raj the mountaineering teams used to consist of dozens of climbers. They came from Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Yogoslavia, France, Norway, England, Japan etc. and brought much more luggage and each team needed 100 to 200 porters for a couple of days and paid, under the rules, ration, shoes, goggles, socks, rain coats and the like to the porters during their engagements. They paid higher wages and the arrival of many expeditions successively brought good wages to the local people and beside the wages and tips the extra food items after the expedition, were distributed among the porters beside used items like tents, ground sheets, crampons, ropes, utensils, jackets, pullovers etc. This was a good and lucrative aspect of adventure tourism for the people living  close to the main road that led to high HinduKush. Most of this mountain activity earnestly began in late 50s and continued  up to early 80s when Russia invaded Afghanistan and the borders became insecure. This brought the seasonal source of income of the people attached to this activity down sharply and within a few years the whole activity stopped but sporadic expeditions reached this old haunt of climbers like the Swiss Istor – O – Nal expedition 2000, Oxford Saraghrar Expedition 2000 , Swiss Saraghrar Expedition 2005. The last trekking party from Newzealand trekked to Languta-e- Barfi ( 7017m) in 2014 with Patricia, a famous climber who could ascend above 6000m with her fractured leg but made the trip quite successfully. The money from these climbers went to the pocket of the local laboring class directly and fed their children.

    Due to change in the mountaineering rules and refusal of Visas to potential foreign climbers by the Federal Government have discouraged the adventure tourist from abroad and forced them to choose climbing and trekking destinations in neighbouring countries like Tajikstan, kyrghizistan and other Tourism friendly countries and the number of tourists who visited Pakistan hence Chitral, dropped from laks to thousands and from thousands to hundreds and now to a dozen a year. The loss of the source of income has dropped to zero for the porters and hoteliers hence their grade of poverty has gone down to the lowest point. Chitral has been deprived of its share in the Tour related income despite its scores of high peaks and unexplored trekking destinations. With the rise in unemployment and fall in summer tourism income it is hard for the youth to live as a youth aspires to live—out of the frying pan into the fire. The claims made by Federal and Provincial governments to promote tourism is an eye wash and, carries no weight as the activities given in their brochures are insipid, unattractive and not tourist friendly. The stake holders in this business are not consulted and those who claim to have knowledge of the field is bogus as the Minister who held the portfolio proved a fake representative and kicked out of the Assembly for his bogus result. How can one expect such a minister to promote a big industry like Tourism that is so sensitive as foreign guests are as fragile as an egg shell that must be looked after very very carefully but not in the rough  way that is peculiar to certain communities.

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