Riaz Haq writes this data-driven blog to provide information, express his opinions and make comments on many topics. Subjects include personal activities, education, South Asia, South Asian community, regional and international affairs and US politics to financial markets. For investors interested in South Asia, Riaz has another blog called South Asia Investor at http://www.southasiainvestor.com and a YouTube video channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkrIDyFbC9N9evXYb9cA_gQ
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Extreme Kayak Adventures in Pakistan
The high Karakorum mountains in Pakistan offer great adventures in mountain climbing and kayaking for those looking for high danger and extreme thrills at fairly low cost. Hunza valley with its steep and dramatic river falls on the Indus, in particular, offers some of the most challenging white water adventures in the world. While K2 mountain climbing expeditions are not uncommon, extreme kayaking in the area around K2 appears to be a fairly well-kept secret.
Writing for Jackson Kayak website recently, Kayaker Darin McQuoid said as follows: "In my short career of paddling, Pakistan wins the prize for the lowest cost of living once in country. Being a notoriously cheap kayaker, this motel on our fifteenth night was right up my alley at thirty cents per person. We never spent a night in a heated building while in Pakistan, so as an added bonus, it was nice and one warm."
Another extreme kayaker Ben Stookesberry, who is one of about half a dozen professional kayakers who tackle waterfalls above 100 feet, was reported by Wall Street Journal as saying he "views the fast-charging Lower Mesa Falls (in US) as preparation for even more ambitious drops on kayaking expeditions down uncharted rivers in Brazil, Chile and Pakistan.
On a recent expedition on the Indus in Pakistan, when Kayaker Bernhard Mauracher saw the massive wall of water in front of him it was already too late. He had planned to slip through a small gate in the huge rapids but underestimated the power of the roaring currents of the Indus river. A brief moment later he found himself captured in a swirl of foam and glacier water. The lion river showed its claws and wouldn't let Bernhard go. Like in a washing-machine paddler and kayaker were tumbled through masses of water. Bernhard decided to leave his kayak...a deadly risk in the floods of the Indus. Immediately, Bernhard was drawn downwards and everything turned dark. After a very long time, in a breathless silence, he made out a shimmer of light. The surface, the sunlight, life...
First descent in a kayak in the land of the highest mountains on earth around Karakorum. On 3 May,2007, the AKC expedition "Taming the lion II" came back from Pakistan, from the roof of the world to Germany. During the first two weeks of April, the whitewater kayak team led by Olaf Obsommer and Bernhard Mauracher mastered 30 km of first descents in one of the last unchallenged big canyons of the Himalaya - the Rondu Canyon of the Indus river. 30 km more remain untouched due to extremely fast rising water levels.
An expedition to the world's second highest peak, K2 in Pakistan, runs around $50,000 per climber. A trip to Everest has the steepest price at $65,000. Excluding gear and clothing, the cost estimates for K2 climb range from $15000 to $30,000. Individual climbers can easily spend $5,000 on equipment. The total Mt. Everest annual revenue runs into tens of millions of dollars and provides employment to several thousand people. 3,681 people have made the summit so far, but thousands more have tried. About 170 climbers have died in their attempts to reach the summit.
Kayakers in Pakistan can enjoy extreme kayaking at a tiny fraction of the cost of climbing Mount Everest or K2.
There have been many inspiring stories of great adventure, success and survival of climbers after storms and avalanches on K2, the story of Greg Mortenson stands out. In 1993, Mortenson, an American from the state of Montana, went to climb K2 in northern Pakistan. After more than 70 days on the mountain, Mortenson and three other climbers completed a life-saving rescue of a fifth climber that took more than 75 hours. After the rescue, he began his descent of the mountain and became weak and exhausted. Two local Balti porters took Mortenson to the nearest city, but he took a wrong turn along the way and ended up in Korphe, a small village, where the villagers took care of him and he recovered.
To pay the remote community back for their compassion, Mortenson said he would build a school for the village. After a frustrating time trying to raise money, Mortenson convinced Jean Hoerni, a Silicon Valley pioneer, to found the Central Asia Institute. A non-profit organization, CAI's mission is to promote education and literacy, especially for girls, in remote mountain regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Hoerni named Mortenson as CAI's first Executive Director. Reviewing Greg Mortenson's book "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time", New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff argues "a lone Montanan (Mortenson) staying at the cheapest guest houses has done more to advance U.S. interests in the region than the entire military and foreign policy apparatus of the Bush administration". Kristoff quotes Greg Mortenson, an Army veteran, as saying “Schools are a much more effective bang for the buck than missiles or chasing some Taliban around the country".
While some international and Pakistani climbers, kayakers and tourists may be dissuaded by the extreme dangers of K2 climbing (or rather descending) or extreme kayaking or the fear of the Taliban, many more would be drawn to it for the very same reason. As the stories of the challenging mountain and white water rapids kayaking reach the worldwide audience, I expect much larger numbers to flock to it for the risks and thrills Pakistan's northern areas offer. With relatively modest investments for average tourists and serious climbers and kayakers facilities such as access roads, hotels, restaurants, guided tours, a climbing history museum, a climbing or kayaking skills school, mountaineering equipment and clothing stores, Pakistan tourism department can develop a strong revenue stream to create jobs, build schools and promote opportunities for the friendly natives in its picturesque northern areas.
Here's an excerpt from a recent Time Magazine article on Pakistan's tourism potential:
The truth is Pakistan could be — should be — an incredible tourist destination. It offers wonderful Mughal ruins, evocative British colonial architecture, world-class hiking and climbing in the Karakoram Mountains, gorgeous rolling green meadows, captivating culture, great food (especially the fruits and kebabs), and some of the best carpet shops in South Asia. Unfortunately, it is also regularly described as the world's most dangerous country — which, while more intriguing than slogans like "Malaysia, Truly Asia" or "I Feel Slovenia," is not exactly an inducement for people to visit.
Pakistan Indus River Kayaking
Kayaking Goes Over the Edge
Climbing K2: The Ultimate Challenge
Three Cups of Tea
Labels: India. Pakistan, Kayak, Mountain climbing
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Nice article, although Pakistan has one of the famous mountain ranges in the world, yet there is a very less development in the field of mountaineering and related sports.
Here's an assessment of Pakistan's education crisis by Rebecca Winthrop of Brookings Inst:
For the millions of people who read and were inspired by Greg Mortenson’s books, Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, Sunday’s revelations by CBS News’ 60 Minutes that much of his story was at best vastly exaggerated and at worst fabricated, came as deep disappointment. ......
As I travel around Pakistan this week and look at education issues across the country, including in the Federally Administered Northern Areas where Mortenson’s book Three Cups of Tea was set, I am struck by the bitter-sweet effect of these revelations. On the one hand, Mortenson’s book hid one of the country’s biggest educational success stories and promulgated a model of education assistance that has been proven time and again to be ineffective. On the other hand, his story captured the hearts of millions, bringing needed attention to the very real educational needs of Pakistan’s children and articulating the very important role good quality education can play in reducing conflict risk.
Contrary to the Three Cups of Tea portrayal of Gilgit-Bultistan as a place with little educational opportunity, it is one of the regions in Pakistan that has demonstrated true educational transformation over the last 50 years. In 1946, just prior to partition from India, there were an estimated six primary schools and one middle school for the entire region. Today there are over 1,800 primary, 500 middle, 420 high schools, and almost 40 higher education institutions. Girls are often noted to be outperforming boys and staying in school longer. It is true that community leadership and civil society organizations have played a major role in this transformation; it just was not Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute. When I asked the governor of Gilgit-Bultistan, Pir Syed Karam Ali Shah, how this education transformation came about, he was quick to point to the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a network of private, international, nondenominational development organizations, an assertion with which other education experts concur. Led by His Highness the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, the concerted focus on improving education, and especially girls’ education, started in 1946 and has continued, led by community members, for decades. Initially starting in the Ismaili communities in Gilgit-Bultistan, the work spread quickly to other non-Ismaili communities in the region, when the clear economic and health benefits of educating girls were seen by neighboring communities. Many civil society organizations, government interventions and public-private partnerships have developed over time, helping to increase levels of human capital and capacity through heavy investment in education, particularly of girls. According to Mehnaz Aziz, member of the national Pakistan Education Task Force, if the rest of Pakistan could only follow in the footsteps of the people of Gilgit-Bultistan, the status of education in Pakistan would be greatly improved.
... Increasing access to quality education is likely to reduce Pakistan’s risk of conflict as cross-country estimates show that increasing educational attainment is strongly correlated with conflict risk reduction. Last month, a national campaign – Education Emergency Pakistan 2011 – was launched to spur country-wide dialogue on the need to prioritize educational investment and progress.
It is unfortunate that the 60 Minutes expose has called into question the accuracy of Greg Mortenson’s books. Without defending Mortenson or whether the facts in his memoirs are accurate, I can say truthfully that there is indeed a very serious education crisis in Pakistan. The international community should not lose sight of this and the real needs of the Pakistani children and youth seeking to improve their lives.
Here's an excerpt from "Back to Pakistan" by Leslie Noyes Mass talking about the extensive telecom coverage in remote Northern areas of Pakistan:
"The Eagles Nest is aptly named: it perches on top of a ridge amid rocky scree and jagged peaks. Behind us are 24000-feet snowcapped summits, soaring into the sky. Below, the valley where we have spent the past few days is recognizable by its row of cell phone towers and the Hunza River. I have been astonished that, remote as we are in Hunza, first-class cell phone and Internet connections are available 24/7. We are as close to civilization as the briefest click and as far away the loosest stone on that crumbling highway north or south."
The highway Mass is referring to is the world's highest called Karakoram Highway at an altitude of over 15000 feet. It's currently being repaired and expanded with Chinese help. Talking about it, she writes:
"I wonder what a wide, asphalt highway would do to this area--bring more tourists and trade and change forever the lives of the people in the distant villages hidden among the rocks, I imagine."
Here's a MSNBC story on charges of theft of charity funds against Greg Mortenson:
n a 44-page report, Attorney General Steve Bullock said a yearlong investigation by his office concluded that Mortenson mismanaged his nonprofit, the Bozeman-Mont.-based Central Asia Institute, and personally profited from it.
“Mortenson’s pursuits are noble and his achievements are important. However, serious internal problems in the management of CAI surfaced,” Bullock said in the report.
Mortenson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment through the Central Asia Institute. Interim director Anne Beyersdorfer told The Associated Press that the author will continue to be a paid employee, promoting CAI and building relationships overseas, but will no longer be on the board of directors.
“While we respectfully disagree with some of the analysis and conclusions in the OAG’s report, we look forward to moving ahead as an even stronger organization, focusing on CAI’s vital mission,” Beyersdorfer said in a separate statement on the CAI website.
“CAI has always been a small group of dynamic, mission-centric individuals doing extraordinary work. Mistakes were made during a rapid period of growth, and we have corrected or are in the process of correcting them.”
Mortenson became a huge name in philanthropy – and quite wealthy – after his 2006 book, “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time,” became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. He followed up with another bestseller, “Stones into Schools,” in 2009.....
Here's an excerpt from Seattle Post-Intelligencer on mountain peaks in Pakistan:
Experienced climbers say the Karakoram puts the rest of the world's mountain ranges to shame. Neighboring Nepal has Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, but Pakistan has four of the world's 14 peaks that soar to more than 8,000 meters (26,246 feet) above sea level, including the second highest mountain on earth, K-2.
Lama and Ortner said climbing the legendary Pakistan mountains was an amazing experience.
"Here there are so many mountains, and so many difficult mountains, and mountains that haven't been climbed," said Lama. "That's probably why the Karakoram is known as paradise for us."
This year has been particularly successful for Pakistan's climbing industry, which plummeted in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the U.S.
In addition to hosting the renowned Lama for the first time, Nazir Sabir, Pakistan's elder statesman of climbing who was the country's first person to scale Everest, said 30 climbers summited K-2 in 2012, the first summits from the Pakistani side of the mountain since 11 people died trying in 2008.
And the drone footage obtained during Lama and Ortner's climb will expose even more viewers to the legendary Karakoram mountain range.
Drones also increasingly are being used in other adventure sports to push conventional photography boundaries. Cameras on drones have been used to capture video of surfers on Hawaii's North Shore and to chase mountain bikers speeding down mountain trails.
Here's an ET report on Pakistani youngsters winning a ski competition in Korea:
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani skiers clinched two top positions at a skiing competition called Dream Programme – 2013 held in Gangwon Province, the Republic of Korea, said a press release on Monday.
President Ski Federation of Pakistan (SFP) Air Marshal Farhat Hussain Khan congratulated Noor Muhammad and Shah Hussain of Naltar Ski School who won the gold and silver medals respectively at the event. He hoped that the success would significantly boost the SFP’s ventures in national and international ski events.
The winning skiers also met with the Korean Ambassador to Pakistan Choong-joo Choi who appreciated the performances of the budding players.
The Dream Programme was initiated by Gangwon Province in 2004 to promote winter sports in countries where winter sports facilities were not fully developed. Pakistan joined the programme in 2011.
This year, around 150 participants from 40 countries took part in the training after which athletes were divided into groups and competitions were held among them.
Here's an Express Tribune story of first Pak woman on Everest:
ISLAMABAD / GILGIT-BALTISTAN: Two young siblings achieved rare mountaineering glory for themselves on Saturday by becoming the first Pakistani woman and only the third Pakistani man to set foot on the summit of Mount Everest in Nepal.
Through their feats, 21-year-old Samina Baig and her 29-year-old brother Mirza Ali ensured that their country’s flag fluttered on the world’s highest summit.
An ecstatic Samina informed her family about her successful ascent via satellite phone.
Mirza Ali and Samina can count themselves lucky as they will be remembered as the only Pakistanis to scale Everest on the 60th anniversary of the first conquest by Edmund Hillary on May 19, 1953.
Only two other Pakistani mountaineers, Nazir Sabir and Hassan Sadpara, have ever climbed the highest peak.
“According to initial reports, the two mountaineers and 29 other foreigners reached the summit at 7.30am (local time),” said Pervaizuddin, a resident of Shimshal Valley.
Two twin sisters from India, Tashi and Nugshi, also accompanied Samina and Mirza.
Together, the siblings placed the flags of India and Pakistan side by side on the highest peak on earth – making a statement of peace.
But Samina and Mirza’s effort stood out because the two siblings managed to scale the peak on the 48th day of their expedition, without the use of supplementary oxygen.
Mirza, who has been regularly updating about their expedition on his blog mirzaadventure.blogspot.com, wrote: “We request all our readers and visitors [to] please pray that Samina becomes the first Pakistani woman to reach the summit of Everest. And I hope to be the first young Pakistani without bottled oxygen to unfurl Pakistan’s flag on top of the world together with our Indian friends! Wish us luck! Thank you for sharing and for your support!”
Hailing from Shimshal village in Gojal tehsil of Hunza-Nagar district, Samina has come a long way.
“She is proof that the country has the talent and motivation; unfortunately there is no government support for mountain climbers,” said Colonel Sher Khan, one of the country’s leading mountaineers. “It is a sport without spectators.” Khan counts the people of Shimshal as among the world’s the best climbers.
Samina’s expedition began on April 1. She and her team ascended the mountain via the south face from the Nepalese side.
Mirza and Samina have been mountaineering for leisure for the last 10 years. They have served as mountain guides and expedition leaders for peaks in the Karakoram, the Himalayas and the Hindukush. But Samina has started climbing professionally for the past four years.
Here's a Fox New report on booming tourism in Azad Kashmir:
Success stories can be rare in Pakistan, but business is booming in one Kashmir tourist spot as the region rebuilds after a devastating earthquake and shrugs off associations with violence.
Hundreds of thousands of Pakistani tourists drawn to the lakes and glaciers of the Neelum valley are injecting desperately needed money into one of the poorest parts of the country.
Westerners stopped coming to the Himalayas of Pakistani-Kashmir years ago, put off by its reputation as a training ground for Islamist militant groups and the risk of sporadic conflict with India.
But with a new road built by the Chinese after the 2005 earthquake killed 73,000 people and a ceasefire holding with India, Pakistanis are discovering the snow-capped peaks, glaciers, lakes and lush-green meadows of the Neelum valley.
Known locally as "Paradise on Earth," the valley is 114 kilometres (70 miles) east of the base camp where gunmen shot dead American, Chinese, Lithuanian, Slovakian and Ukranian climbers in June.
It was the worst attack on foreigners in Pakistan for a decade, but in neighbouring Kashmir, few Pakistanis are worried.
"There is a bit of fear there, but overall we are enjoying ourselves and we will stay according to our plan," said Mohammad Amir, a lawyer on holiday with his family from southern Punjab.
Munazza Tariq, a university student from Karachi, agrees.
"This was carried out by enemies of Pakistan. After it happened, we received a lot of calls from our relatives from Karachi, but we are safe and enjoying ourselves," said Munazza.
Local tourism ministry official Shehla Waqar says 600,000 people visited Neelum last year compared to 130,000 in 2010, before the Chinese built a road linking the area to Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.
"There is an influx of tourists in the area because we have a very beautiful road from Muzaffarabad to the Neelum Valley," she said
The nearby Line of Control slices apart the Indian and Pakistani-held zones of the Himalayan region where a ceasefire has held since November 2003.
"This area is very peaceful and there is no fear of terrorism," said Waqar.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region claimed in full by both sides....
#Pakistan: An incredible journey to the #glaciers of the #Karakoram | via @Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/asia/pakistan/11991679/Pakistan-An-incredible-journey-to-the-glaciers-of-the-Karakoram.html …
The (British) group admitted that they had had pre-conceptions about Pakistan, but received "nothing but overwhelming hospitality" throughout their trip. They stressed the importance of seeking out a knowledgeable local guide - "Ali Saltoro of Alpine Adventure Guides was incredible". They added: "The people we met all wanted more visitors to come and see their beautiful country."
They said that the Yushkin Glacier itself was one of the most beautiful places visited: "House-sized blocks of ice, carved into endlessly beautiful shapes and forms by the torrents of crystal clear water, that would suddenly dive into the glacier and disappear, roaring down into its depths."
Terrifying roads and inhospitable weather greeted a recent expedition to the mountains of northern Pakistan - but at least the views were spectacular
the (British) team, backed by the Royal Geographical Society, had good reason to be where they were. Home for two months for the group of scientists, geographers and photographer Tim Taylor was base camp on the Yukshin Glacier, below Yukshin Gardan Sar (7,530 m), in the Hispar Muztagh mountains, a sub-range of the mighty Karakorams in the remotest part of the ethereal Hunza Valley in north-eastern Pakistan.
These superlative landscapes were briefly deemed off-limits to British travellers, after a mountaineering group was attacked and 11 killed at the basecamp of Nanga Parbat peak in the same Gilgit-Baltistan region. However, the Foreign Office relaxed its travel advice for the area earlier this year. The terrific geography of the place makes travel difficult all the same. Bad weather meant the group's flight from Islamabad further north was cancelled, forcing them into a 24-hour journey on some of pretty hair-raising roads (see below). The group described the route as "a car width's track cut into the rock hundreds of feet above a roaring torrent of water."
Another obstacle was Attabad Lake - formed when a colossal landslide submerged a village. The only way to get vehicles across it is the work of simple genius: 4x4s are strapped onto wooden planks laid across the back of a tiny boat.
In September, those parts of the Karakoram Highway - the world's highest paved road - destroyed by the Attabad landslide, were reopened, meaning that more conventional forms of transport are making their way back into the region.
The group set out to monitor the deadly phenomenon of glacial lake outburst floods, or "inland tsunamis", caused by the breaching of ice dams that allows water to surge downstream. According to the Karakoram Anomaly Project, the effects of this phenomenon pose a threat to around 80,000 people in the region.
The team collected data that would allow them to predict the risk of a glacial lake outburst flood in the Shimshal Valley. The road to this small village was only finished in 2003, having taken almost 20 years to construct. There are no roads beyond this, meaning that explorations in and around the glaciers were completed on foot.
The work also involved "repeat" photography: recreating images from the Royal Geographical Society dating back to 1887, taken by the pioneering explorers of the late 19th and early 20th century. The aim of this was to compare how the glaciers have changed over the past 100 years.
In addition to scientific research, the team documented the trip and will release a documentary in 2016.
Paraglider Soars To Record Heights Above #Pakistan mountain peaks. #K2 via @seeker
From his vantage point in the air, Antoine Girard soared nearly level with the summits of Pakistan's jagged snowcapped mountains: K2, Broad Peak, and G4.
The French athlete wasn't flying in a commercial aircraft, though. He was bundled up like a mountaineer in a snowstorm, breathing oxygen from a tank, and cruising along in his paraglider, reports Planetmountain.com.
This was no mere jaunt. Girard's surreal flight in Pakistan lasted for seven hours. He started over the long Baltoro Glacier, then headed over the famous rocky Trango Tower to the Concordia confluence before he caught the right thermals to fly over Broad Peak on July 23, Planetmountain.com reported. Reaching a height of 26,761 feet, Girard made history by becoming the first person to surpass the 8,000-meter (26,246.72 feet) mark for high-altitude cross-country paragliding.
The Adidas-sponsored paraglider, who is also an experienced mountain climber, spent weeks in Pakistan preparing. "This is the flight of the century," American adventure pilot Brad Sander, who assisted Girard in Pakistan, told Cross Country magazine. "It's beyond anything anyone has done so far."
Girard manages makes the feat look downright relaxing, but paragliding comes with crazy risks. Earlier this week, paraglider Damien LeRoy's engine stalled right before a turn in Florida, prompting him to bail 150 feet above the ground to avoid crashing. The fall broke his back, femur, pelvis, three ribs, and punctured his lung, ABC News reported. Fortunately, he survived to tell the tale.
Just watching paragliders from the ground here in Colorado, I get nervous that a sudden gust of wind would send them careering into the mountainside. Girard's footage, on the other hand, is far more relaxing to view -- as long as you don't think about how cold his fingers must have gotten.
Very Detailed information and data on white water sports kayaking on Indus river .
We have recently have clients on indus river and we will be developing this sports and sharing the experience on links below
ali Anwar Khan
golden Peak Tours
‘Emerging #Pakistan’ branding on #London buses https://www.geo.tv/latest/147309-emerging-pakistan-branding-on-london-buses LONDON: London’s iconic red double-decker buses are carrying brand Pakistan on the roads of Central London, the hub of world tourists. This ultimate branding campaign is running under the theme of “Emerging Pakistan” and will continue for four weeks.
Tens of thousands of people will get to see the London buses daily. During four weeks, millions will see these buses depicting the diversity and beauty of Pakistan.
The initiative is a part of celebrations planned by the Pakistan High Commission London for the 70th Independence Anniversary of Pakistan this year.
Fully wrapped double-decker buses are showcasing the pristine beauty of Pakistan with its highest peaks, beautiful landscape, rare fauna, monuments representing ancient civilisation, magnificent architecture and rich and diverse culture.
The moving buses are creating an unparalleled lasting visual impact on millions of pedestrians and motorists alike, especially the tourists. Millions of tourists visit London every year, mainly during summer. The buses decorated in Pakistani colours will pass through the tourist routes covering thousands of miles in total.
The bus wrapping campaign aims to introduce foreign tourists to the beautiful land of Pakistan that still remains unexplored.
Speaking to Geo News, Syed Ibne Abbas, Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK said: "Pakistan branding on the iconic London buses is projecting the true image of Pakistan in London which is the hub of the foreign tourists. This publicity campaign showcases the beauty of Pakistan, its culture, landscape and people, and will help promote tourism in Pakistan in the most effective way. The recent social uplift and economic prosperity in Pakistan underpins the theme of the campaign i.e. ‘Emerging Pakistan’ as acknowledged by many independent international organisations.”
He said foreigners are always mesmerised when they see the beauty of Pakistan’s culture and the richness of colours is appreciated all over the world.
#Tourism thrives in #Pakistan as number of foreign tourists triples and domestic tourism up 30% since 2013. #travel
As security improves, annual tourist arrivals to Pakistan has more than tripled since 2013 to 1.75 million last year, while domestic travelers rose 30 percent to 38.3 million, according to the state-owned Pakistan Tourism Development Corp. Over the same period, foreign tourist arrivals in the country’s larger neighbor, India, jumped from 6.97 million in 2013 to 8.8 million in 2016, government figures show.
The World Travel and Tourism Council puts the total contribution of tourism to Pakistan’s economy at $19.4 billion last year or 6.9 percent of gross domestic product. In a decade, the WTTC expects that to rise to $36.1 billion.
Still, security challenges remain. While casualties from attacks fell 43 percent last year, major cities, such as Lahore, are occasionally hit by bombings.
Jonny Bealby, the managing director of Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel Ltd., a London-based operator that has run trips to Pakistan for two decades, said his tours to the South Asian nation are up 60 percent from last year.
Along with security, Bealby said the main improvement in Pakistan has been infrastructure. “The roads have improved immeasurably reducing journey times.’’
Annual tourist arrivals have more than tripled since 2013
Military campaign has boosted safety, infrastructure improved
After a bone-jarring mountain journey, Alan Cameron surveys the snow-capped peaks of Pakistan’s north near the Saiful Maluk lake. “It’s beautiful -- well worth the effort,” said the 34-year-old Canadian holidaying in a country better known for terrorism than tourism.
Taking a break from his job as an analyst at Jefferies in London, Cameron’s vacation last month underscores the rekindling of Pakistan’s tourism industry after a sustained military security crack-down, with annual arrivals more than tripling since 2013.
Keen to shed the image that it’s unsafe for visitors, Pakistan has begun a nascent tourism drive and this summer placed adverts across the sides of London’s iconic red buses. Road infrastructure has also been boosted across key holiday regions.
Since the 2014 massacre of more than 100 children at a military school, the army has neutered some insurgent groups and political militias. Tourists are now returning to areas such as the Swat Valley, a northern region known as the Switzerland of Pakistan that was controlled by the Taliban between 2007 and 2009 and where Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai was shot in 2012.
THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE > PAKISTAN
Pakistan identified as top travel destination
The British Backpacker Society has identified Pakistan as it’s top travel desitination due to it being “one of the friendliest countries on earth, with mountain scenery that is beyond anyone’s wildest imagination”.
“Pakistan is the clear winner of the British Backpacker Society’s top 20 adventure travel destinations 2018 and we encourage keen travellers to book a trip now” the backpackers, who have explored over 101 countries, shared on social media. Other top destinations included Russia, India, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and China.
Gulf News has carried the comments of two members of the BBS on Pakistan. Samuel Joynson and Adam Sloper said that Pakistan had a lot to offer travellers.
“Pakistan is one of the friendliest countries on earth. So, prepare to be invited into people’s homes, take more selfies than you can count, and have every preconception that you ever held about this area of the world changed forever,” Samuel said.
The pair visited Pakistan in 2016, and traveled from Lahore to Gilgit-Baltistan via the Kaghan valley. They ended their trip in the Hunza Valley and climbed the Hon Pass near Karimabad.
“We chose to climb the Hon Pass as Eric Shipton, one of Britain’s most famous mountaineers, described the view from the pass as ‘the ultimate manifestation of mountain grandeur’, and we wanted to follow in his footsteps and experience this spectacle,” Samuel recalled. “The view from the Hon Pass was indeed the greatest natural sight that either of us has ever seen, and we would recommend it to anyone with a keen interest in mountaineering.”
Samuel also shared a travel tip: “Head north to the astonishing peaks of the Karakoram along the unforgettable Karakoram Highway. It is beautiful, exciting and culturally interesting, and travellers are rewarded at the journey’s end-point with perhaps the most beautiful natural sight on earth, the Hunza Valley.”
British Backpacker Society is known for inspiring thousands of it’s online followers to visit less famous destinations in developing countries. Adam had a word of advice for international travelers concerned about their safety when visiting Pakistan:
“Our advice would be to put preconceptions on the security situation in Pakistan to one side, and conduct some independent research. You should certainly review travel advisories from respective governments, but also speak to local Pakistanis about the situation. We believe that travel is at its best when it changes a visitor’s preconceptions, and few experiences achieve this more than travelling in Pakistan” he implored.
Ziarat forests are spread over nearly 110,000 hectares. No dendrological study has been conducted but mature trees are often thousands of years old, earning them the title of "living fossils".
The forest lies in mountains ranging from more than 1,000m (3,000 feet) above sea level to nearly 3,500 metres above sea level. The remarkable longevity of the trees allows research into past weather conditions and makes the species significant for climate change and ecological studies.
Pakistan declared it a Biosphere Reserve in 2013.
It's also a habitat for black bears and wolves, as well as urials, a type of sheep, and the Sulaiman markhor, a large species of wild goat.
Juniper berries are enjoyed for their flavour in cooking and their oil has several uses.
The forest in Ziarat is a popular tourist spot, some 120km (75 miles) east of the provincial capital Quetta.
It gained a reputation as a health resort after Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah stayed there in the summer of 1948, in the last days of his life.
But these days the area covered by the forest is decreasing. Locals criticise provincial officials for not doing enough to protect the forest, as BBC Hindi's Shumaila Jafri has reported.
Locals looking for firewood keep felling trees. There is no other source of fuel.
Piped gas would be a cheaper option but the gas supply was never extended to Ziarat. While Balochistan produces the bulk of Pakistan's natural gas, it is the most neglected when it comes to piped supplies.
There has been some illegal commercial felling but the damage is not extensive, thanks to awareness campaigns run by NGOs.
Forest officials say decreasing tree cover is partly due to the time a sapling takes to grow.
Only 10% of new saplings survive. Last year 20,000 saplings were planted but only 2,000 will go on to become mature trees.
Top #French adventure travel agency returns to #Pakistan after decade. The tour operator will offer four trips, ranging from 17 to 24 days, intended for lovers of high #mountains. #Tourism #Travel #adventure
Following the fast improving ranking of country in tourism, Terres d’Aventure, a French tour agency specialized in adventure travel, hiking and trekking has decided to re-programme Pakistan, after a decade.
According to an article appeared in French magazine Tour Mag, the tour operator would propose four trips, ranging from 17 to 24 days, intended for lovers of high mountains.
Two treks in the heart of the Karakoram Range are intended for good walkers.
“A hike for 13 days along the Baltoro glacier to the famous Concordia site, then on to the base camp of K2, the most beautiful mountain in the world according to mountaineers, and then to Gondogoro La (5 585m), from where one can view an exceptional panorama of four eight thousanders, K2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum I and II”, the tour operator said.
The agency also offered another tour, a seven-day trek along the Batura glacier in Hunza.
“With few steep passages, this trek offers a gradual acclimatization and presents no major difficulties, offering exceptional views of 14 peaks over 7000 meters and vast glacial landscapes,” added Terres d’Aventure.
Established in 1976, Terres d'Aventure is one of the top French adventure travel agencies.
In a statement the agency said: “Au-delà des clichés relayés par la presse, et sans nier certaines difficultés politiques, nous recommandons le Pakistan pour ce qu'il est réellement : un peuple qui a beaucoup à offrir, et qui aspire à la paix et à l'ouverture sur le monde. Plusieurs régions sont sûres, notamment le Gilgit-Baltistan, et les autorités sont mobilisées pour assurer la sécurité des populations et des visiteurs”.
(Translation: Beyond the clichés relayed by the press, and without denying certain political difficulties, we recommend Pakistan for what it really is: …….. Several regions are safe, including Gilgit-Baltistan, and the authorities are mobilized to ensure the safety of people and visitors.)
Travel & Tourism
Development Index 2021
Rebuilding for a Sustainable
and Resilient Future
As mentioned, Japan is the top performer in both
the APAC region and globally, with Australia (7th)
and Singapore (9th) ranking in the global top 10.
However, it is lower-middle-income economies such
as Viet Nam (+4.7%, 60th to 52nd), Indonesia
(+3.4%, 44th to 32nd) and Pakistan (+2.9%, 89th
to 83rd) that have improved their TTDI scores the
most since 2019. China, which ranks 12th on the
TTDI, has the region’s largest T&T economy, while
the Philippines, which depended the most on T&T
for its GDP in 2020, ranks 75th. Although Japan
and Singapore lead the ranking in the Eastern APAC
and South-East Asia subregions, respectively, India
(54th) is the top scorer in South Asia.
“Six points increase in the ranking of Pakistan on global travel and tourism index is quite a significant progress and now Pakistan is among the countries in the Asia Pacific Region that have improved its ranking the most since 2019,” PTDC Managing Director Aftabur Rehman Rana said.
He added that during the last two years, the federal and provincial governments had made significant progress in improving the performance of tourism sector in Pakistan by taking various steps to upgrade tourism services infrastructure, business environment, safety and security, health and hygiene, and socio-economic resilience.
“Although we have made good progress, we still need to do a lot more to further enhance the performance of tourism sector in Pakistan in coming years, which has huge potential to play a key role in the overall socio-economic development of Pakistan,” he added.
Overall, Japan has occupied the top spot on the latest edition of the index. Japan is followed by the USA, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Singapore and Italy which have been ranked in top 10 on the Travel and Tourism Development index, respectively.
Pakistani peaks set to attract record number of international climbers
As many as 1,400 mountaineers from around the globe, including the first female Arab climber, are expected to scale some of the world’s highest peaks located in Gilgit-Baltistan this year.
It’s a stark contrast to the previous year, when 550 foreign climbers arrived for adventure tourism.
The Gilgit-Baltistan tourism department had already issued 700 permits to international climbers, and as many were expected to be issued this summer, an official told Dawn.
The climbers — coming from Europe, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, China, Russia, Poland, Japan and Norway — are eyeing to summit various peaks, including five eight-thousanders (i.e. mountains towering above 8,000 metres) and 20 seven- and six-thousanders.
Pakistan boasts five of the world’s 14 eight-thousanders, including the world’s second-highest peak K2 (8,611 metres), followed by Nanga Parbat (ranked ninth at 8,126 metres), Gasherbrum-I (11th at 8,080 metres), Broad Peak (12th at 8,051 metres), and Gasherbrum-II (13th at 8,035m).
Moreover, 40 Pakistani mountaineers are also in the race, including Sajid Ali Sadpara, Sirbaz Khan, Abdul Joshi, Sheroze Kashif, Samina Baig and Naila Kiani.
As many as 3,000 local porters have been hired by several expedition teams to carry the supplies.
Alpine Club of Pakistan Secretary Karrar Haidri said many international expedition team members from various countries had already arrived in Pakistan. He said this was the highest number of international mountaineers coming to Pakistan since the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
Mr Haidri said a record number of more than 400 climbers would attempt to scale K2, the second-highest — and also the most challenging — peak in the world.
He believed that the prevailing peaceful environment in Pakistan and the introduction of online visas had helped attract such a large number of international tourists this year.
GB Tourism Minister Raja Nasir Ali Khan told Dawn the tourism department was ready to facilitate climbers and cope with emergencies. He said 1,200 international climbers had applied for permits, adding that this year would witness record adventure tourism activity in Pakistan.
Home Secretary Iqbal Hussain Khan told Dawn the GB government and the army had all arrangements in place to rescue climbers in case of emergency.
Adventure Pakistan CEO Muhammad Ali Nagri told Dawn several expeditions had reached base camps while more were on the way.
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