By Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig
The Khyber Pakhtonkhwa government has framed a tourism policy according to the manifesto of the PTI to restructure the outdated one and has made a number of so-called reforms as they think better measures to revamp this sector under supervision of the minister for tourism.
But as the saying goes ‘old is gold’, there were so many good points of the old ‘Mountaineering rules and regulations’ framed in a booklet that despite certain demerits was a very good document. The bad ones were the imposition of high royalty fee, poor implementation of the rules regarding porters, lack of facilities for climbers etc. But the good ones were much more and one of them was the balance of permits between the peaks of Karakoram and Hindu Kush as the team was given two options as where it would like to climb. But in the policy under consideration of TC KP nothing has been finalized and there are no official rules to be accessed by potential climbers and tour operators.
The minister concerned made a number of foreign visits and met tourism offices, tour operators, conferences and policy makers in the west as well as in the east and gleaned a good volume of information about the expanding tourism field and decided to sift the info and select a number of points that are thought suitable for our country. The study was informative but the selection was negative and had many irrelevant things that are incompatible with our culture such as certain things that are in the background of the tourism policy of countries like Thailand and some western states. Where there is a good component of sex to attract tourism but this is totally against our Faith and culture. What they have allowed in Thailand cannot be allowed here. It has been discussed weeks back.
The other innovation is the introduction of tourism police system. This is a big blunder and very bad approach and has got many demerits but no merit. Our police are already unpopular in the public and despite their observance of their duties police are not in the good book of the people. Their role in tourism, in the light of the past many years in Chitral when armed constables drove a single tourist from one point to another, adding to unnecessary charge from his budget, shed the impression that that particular tourist is under arrest and not allowed to roam about as he had envisaged at the beginning of his tour at the time of his/her departure. In the old rules of PTDC there was no idea of such a policing system and the number of tourists and expeditions increased each year according to figures for years before 1990. Many have helped drug addict tourists. Many of the tourists who come here are drug addicts and take this destination as one of the ideal ones so they come only for that purpose. The role of police in this case becomes complicated and sends negative message.
The idea of introduction of tourism police for helping or promoting or encouraging potential tourists will give the message that there still exists a threat to the lives of visitors and thus they foster suspicion about their safety. This measure especially in the two districts of Chitral will surely create misgivings in the minds of potential visitors and will compel them to rethink about their destination. You are already making efforts to show that our country is now fit for safe tourism but your inclusion of police in the fragile business creates misgivings. Reconsider it, return this idea to the country from where you have borrowed it. Make good arrangements for uninterrupted tourist movement in all parts of the region and take back the curse of restricted and open zone division.
It is inadvisable to squander the meager resources allocated for promotion of tourism in KP on an exercise that has no positive but dark side in its history. The same amount could be utilized to provide facilities to foreign and domestic tourists like leveling the shingle roads in the distant valleys where for poor road condition smaller vehicles cannot go, widening the narrow mountain roads in the hilly areas of Malakand and Hazara divisions, designing camping grounds for tourists, improving the tracks to the Base Camps of renowned peaks such as Terich Mir, Saraghrar, Kotgaz, Booni Zom, Akher Chioh, Kohe- Baba Tangi etc. for safe trek of the trekkers/climbers and their porters to those destinations. Terich Mir, the highest peak in KP, has been ignored altogether and is not in the priority list of the previous meetings of TC. The involvement of police in the sensitive tourism management sector is too dangerous than helpful. This is a calculated step to bring disrepute to the already fragile guest protocol and entertainment sector that wants to get an industry status but who will allow that force to intervene inside his industrial installations?
You are spreading an impression among the potential guests that your life is insecure here and by use of police services we want to save your lives. Will you like police to interfere with your itinerary while travelling in another country? Is police escort not an embarrassing intervention? Though the system of policing has been reformed but the minds and attitude of the personal has not changed noticeably.