ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Youth Hostel Association (PYHA) has been struggling to promote youth tourism in the country ever since it set up its first hostel in Taxila in 1952.
Recognised by Unesco, the association works under the umbrella of the 78-year-old Hostelling International and is a voluntary initiative by Professor U Karamat and other educationists.
Prof Karamat wanted the youth to see their country’s glorious beauty and develop love for it, as well as encourage national integrity and international peace.
He was inspired by a German teacher, Richard Schermann, who came up with the idea of youth hostels and would take children out on tours of the countryside. Receiving global recognition, Schermann’s legacy continues to provide community services in Pakistan.
The organisation that started with one youth hostel now has 16 hostels at various scenic spots across the country, including Gilgit, Naran, Moenjadaro and Bhurban, among others.
Every year, the association provides lodgings to 50,000 students, teachers and tourists, whether domestic or foreign.
Mujtaba Baqir, a student of the Punjab University Environmental Sciences, on his second trip to Islamabad youth hostel, said: “At places where our university does not have a hostel or a campus, the youth hostel association provides us with shelter and all basic facilities at convenient rates.”
But the initiative has been facing numerous hurdles from various local entities in its effort to establish youth hostels across the country.
“Providing community services in Pakistan is a difficult task,” said Honorary National Secretary of PYHA Agha Afzaal Hussain: “The association has tried to do much but to little success .”
The association has faced countless problems since its inception, from land mafias to encroachments to legal battles.
“We had to pay huge amounts just to receive basic infrastructure facilities, which the government was supposed to provide,” he said.
“Other than posing various problems to the association, the government has done little to promote it,” he added.
When enquired about the association’s funding mechanisms, Hussain said while foreign donations are common to non-profit oriented community service organisations, PYHA had not gone around asking people for help.
He said the association is mainly funded by the education department, but currently funds are generated from membership fees, bedding fees and donations.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2010.