Tourism in Swat

Published: October 25, 2011
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This picture taken on March 20, 2011 shows a local man skiing on a mountain during a four-day skiing competition at the Malam Jabba resort, 300 kilometres (190 miles) northwest of the capital Islamabad in the Swat Valley. PHOTO: AFP

This picture taken on March 20, 2011 shows a local man skiing on a mountain during a four-day skiing competition at the Malam Jabba resort, 300 kilometres (190 miles) northwest of the capital Islamabad in the Swat Valley. PHOTO: AFP

Most crucial of all is the need to build confidence that Swat is genuinely free and safe from militancy. PHOTO: FILE This picture taken on March 20, 2011 shows a local man skiing on a mountain during a four-day skiing competition at the Malam Jabba resort, 300 kilometres (190 miles) northwest of the capital Islamabad in the Swat Valley. PHOTO: AFP

There have been some rather desperate ads in the media inviting tourists back to the beautiful valley of Swat, with its mountains, forests, rushing rivers and lakes. Some of the campaigns carry photographs quite obviously taken from the past, when honeymooning couples walked alongside streams or visitors from overseas fishing for trout. Will those days return? For the people of Swat the only real hope for the future lies in that they do, that the hotels fill up again, the guides find customers to take on tours and skiers once more frequent the Malam Jabba resort, burned down by militants at the height of the Taliban insurgency.

Traditionally, of course, the economy of Swat has depended on tourism. Even as the fighting ended, the floods of 2010 delivered another devastating blow to it, as riverside inns and cafes were washed away, sometimes taking with them the sums of money owners had so painstakingly gathered and invested. Right now, these people need help. Perhaps soft-loan schemes can help them find their feet again and, while the tourism corporations seem to be doing what they can, perhaps authorities can do more to build faith in Swat as a destination where it is safe to take families or set out on holidays. If such measures are taken local tourism could increase, though it will take more time for the international community to return, given the overall situation in our country. To encourage this, more effort to restore the damaged and defaced rock sculptures dating back to Buddhist times also needs to be made, given their allure for tourists.

But most crucial of all is the need to build confidence that Swat is genuinely free and safe from militancy. We must ask if this is possible when men like Maulana Fazalullah remain free and there is talk of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Muhamaddi, which is linked to the Taliban, building up caches of arms in homes. We must realise that an economic revival in Swat is vital to bring any kind of lasting peace to the valley and to end the hold the militants still exert in many of its areas.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • rehmat
    Oct 26, 2011 - 2:59AM

    @Author: “We must realise that an economic revival in Swat is vital to bring any kind of lasting peace to the valley and to end the hold the militants still exert in many of its areas”.

    It is chicken and egg situation. Terrorism needs to stop to start tourism. Tourism needs to start to stop terrorism. If people in Pakistan did not completely lose sight of theor own interests, they would reach out to Jammu and Kashmir to figure out how they addressed this issue (this year there have been a million domestic tourists). But the more likely scenario is the whole emotion around Kashmir will prevent any such win-win discussion..

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  • Madiha
    Oct 26, 2011 - 10:12AM

    It seems like a chicken and egg situation but that does not mean that we should continue to sit and do nothing about it. We have to start somewhere and it is only full-fledged economic revival of the area that would work at the end of the day. While terrorism does pose a threat, it poses a threat everywhere in the country. And so, we need to build the confidence of not only potential tourists, but also the people of the area themselves.

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  • omlette du fromage
    Oct 26, 2011 - 3:36PM

    true, swat has undergone a multitude of changes that have transformed the way of life of its residents and has led to shifts in perceptions in the minds of pakistanis living outside of swat, but this can be attributed to a lack of understanding and dissemination of information regarding the current political and social scenarios of the area and devaluing it as holiday destination for tourists. i was there a few months back and had a fantastic time with friends. we went fishing in swat river, drove up to malam jabba for the sunset among other things. we faced very few issues at all. i can say the print ads in question contributed to my decision to go there – its not exactly as we remember it from years ago, but its getting there. for an area dependant on tourism for its economy, which has re-opened for business, helping swatis regain their livelihoods and shape their destinies is good gesture.

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  • Oct 26, 2011 - 4:48PM

    I’ve just been to swat three months ago, driving up from Isb and all the way up to Kalam. the media has to pursue the facts, but the truth I saw with my eyes was that the speed of reconstruction work was such that roads that were under construction on the way to kalam and madyan were in better condition on our return journey 5 days later. people were welcoming and friendly, and didn’t seem scared of outsiders at all; even women were quite visible in the villages and in markets. Extremism is a problem that no outside force can remove; we’re stuck with it till we can expel it from within ourselves as a nation and as a people. But for all the others who want to come to support their countrymen in their revival while seeing the beauty God has given to Pakistan, I’d recommend this excellent video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW641OQmZ6U

    We should have national efforts to improve, but instead we depend on friendly governments to come to our aid. It’s past time we took interest in our own affairs and supported our brothers and sisters to get back on their feet.

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