CHITRAL: The administration of Lower Chitral district has decided to close hotels and guesthouses in Kalash valleys of Bumburate, Birir and Rumbur and restrict entry to the region during the five-day Kalash spring festival, Chilimjusht, slated to begin on May 12.
Deputy commissioner Hasan Abid told Dawn that Chilimjusht would be a low-key affair in line with the measures decided by the National Command and Operation Centre to stem the spread of coronavirus.
“No one will be allowed to move from one Kalash valley to another,” he said.
The DC said the standard operating procedures had been developed for the festival with the help of Kalash elders.
He said under SOPs, both local and foreign tourists won’t be allowed to participate in the festival, while religious leaders of Kalash community would ensure the use of face masks and hand sanitisers by participants.
Mr Abid said all other tourist spots of the district, including Garam Chashma, Gobor, Golen valley, Chitral Gol National Park, Madak Lusht and Tushi, would also be closed to tourists during the eight days long lockdown.
“Non-locals won’t be allowed to enter the district with a special focus on Lowari,” he said.
The DC said inter- and intra-city public transport would be banned in the district during the lockdown.
He, however, said the ban won’t apply to private vehicles, cabs and emergency transport service.
Meanwhile, more than 10 groups of foreign tourists intending to visit the Kalash valleys and other tourist places in Chitral region have reached the country completely unaware of the pandemic-induced travel restrictions.
Shahzada Sirajul Mulk, the member of National Tourism Board and a hotel owner in Chitral, said that uncertainty surrounded the plans of foreign tourists in the country.
He feared that the lockdown could force foreigners to cancel Chitral visit and return.
“The return of tourists will adversely affect tourist activities in the country,” he said.
Mr Mulk said foreigners could be allowed to visit tourist places on the condition of adherence to the coronavirus SOPs. “Foreign tourists are in limited numbers, so they can be managed easily,” he said.
Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2021