In good old days, a large number of foreign tourists could be seen visiting far-off villages of Chitral every summer. But with the passage of time as Pakistan witnessed terror activities following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and arrival of refugees in Pakistan in early 1980s, the country started losing its status of being an attractive destination for tourists.
Then came 9/11 and the war on terrorism after which the tourism industry of Pakistan saw meltdown and tourist sports in the northern areas suffered its heavy toll.
After years when foreign tourists again moved towards northern parts of Pakistan, including Chitral, they were bound to first obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the interior ministry and security agencies.
This was so cumbersome that most of the tourism avoided visiting the area. While in Chitral, each foreign tourist was forcibly provided police guards whenever they would go. This practice was taken as an irritant as the tourists could not move around on their free will.
Moreover, Kalash valleys, the most attractive destination for foreign tourists were restricted for them. The foreign tourists were not allowed to spend night in Kalash valleys. This put a very negative impact on the hotel industry of the area.
Even local media persons were also required to take NOC to prepare any report in border areas such as Kalash valleys and Broghil etc.
However, with the abolition of the NOC condition, the number of foreign tourists arriving in Chitral has increased this year.
Many tourists from European and other countries witnessed the recent spring festival in Kalash valleys. They are now visiting different parts of Chitral.
It is also expected that a large number of foreign tourists will arrive to witness the Shandur festival in the first week of July.
Local people said the government should take more steps to facilitate the tourists and ensure reconstruction of roads to the tourist spots so that local tourism industry could be promoted.
Reporting: GH Farooqui