ISLAMABAD: The attack on a foreign expedition at the base of Nanga Parbat in the heart of Gilgit-Baltistan has triggered many questions. Many adventure enthusiasts from the local community are concerned about security lapses and the proverbial blow to the already deteriorating state of the tourism industry. Regardless, they support the spirit of tourism and want to promote it across borders.
Ashar Bazeb of Discover Pakistan, a local adventure group, said that security for the foreign expedition was most crucial and appropriate measures should have been taken.
He shared a recent trip to Fairy Meadows, travelling via the North Face. “We were not allowed to travel onwards from Bisham after 5pm and were surrounded by police convoys at all times,” he said.
While condemning the attack, he said a few adventure groups were planning to go to Fairy Meadows to express solidarity with the deceased tourists and their bereaved families this summer.
Mobeen Ansari, an Islamabad-based photographer, went on his first expedition to Fairy Meadows some three years back. He had plans of going to the base of Nanga Parbat through the Ruppal Face last year but could not do so because of rampant sectarian violence in the region.
“It is shocking because it is the first time something like this has happened. You usually hear of such incidents happening enroute to Nanga Parbat at Kohistan and Chilas but never at the destination and never involving tourists,” he said.
He expressed disappointment over what he dubbed a major setback for tourism in the area, which had just started to pick up. “Even on my recent tour, I saw people from across the world heading to base camps,” he said, adding, “I hope such a tragedy will not occur again. My heart goes out to the aggrieved families.”
On June 17, a group of international hikers, explorers, climbers and adventure seekers attended the first ever TEDxFairyMeadows, an independently-organised TED event hosted at Fairy Meadows.
Themed ‘Adventure - Us’, the event aimed to introduce the world to the north’s beauty and to use the TEDx platform to share inspirational ideas. The event featured over 90 attendees who had traveled via jeep from Riakot Bridge and had then hiked up 3,500m to the lush green plateau Fairy Meadows.
The venue was chosen onsite with Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest peak in the world, as the background. Four speakers — two locals and two foreigners — shared their talks. The event was followed by an extempore idea-sharing session where adventure seekers, climbers, hikers, trekkers and explorers shared their stories of inspiration.
Shani Foad, one of the speakers, had traveled from Kuwait to discover Gilgit after reading about it on Facebook. “Every day, we face new challenges that only make us stronger. Despite the hassles she faces as a foreigner, Shani is still determined to return next year to discover other beautiful areas such as Skardu and Deosai,” said Saad Hamid, the event’s curator.
Foad talked about “discovering possibilities” and shared her passion for adventure across continents.
Tien-Hsin Yang, a Taiwanese who calls herself one-fourth Pakistani, spoke about her experience of living in Pakistan for over six years. During the question-and-answer session, she asked the audience, “What makes you want to stay in Pakistan?”
Mohammad Khan from Lahore shared how his love for thrills had prompted him to quit his job and become an adventure entrepreneur.
Dr Zeeshan Usmani, a Fulbright scholar and researcher, shared a unique perspective of society. He talked about what he calls “Napkins” — lessons that have shaped his life for the better.
Summing up the experience, Hamid said “We shared our ideas on various subjects including philosophy and engaged in healthy discussions.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2013.
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