Why Gilgit-Baltistan is not given the appreciation it deserves

Published: August 8, 2015

A spectacular destination with the world’s three tallest mountain ranges, lush green plateaus, colourful valleys, dazzling waterfalls, and much more. PHOTO: AFP

The world has shrunk into a global village and everything seems to be available at the request of a single click. The promotion of any sort of business, even in far flung developing countries, has become easier than before. It seems that social media is facilitating the marketers to a great extent.

However, this ease has triggered a complex competition of creative ideas, a race of initiatives, and the tactical management of these social media mechanics in order to attract fruitful prospects. In such a scenario, it was really surprising for me when I couldn’t find the name of our country and its beautiful and scenic tourism spots places on international tourism websites and blogs.

While working on a project, I randomly browsed through 50 sites and found almost every tourist destination in their list, except for Pakistan. Then to overcome my astonishment, I started exploring the essential traits of tourist destinations, something which I figured our country is lacking.

Majority of tourists want to go to places where they can enjoy nature at its best and relax. Fortunately, Pakistan has marvellous destinations like Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) which is blessed with breath-taking landscapes to satisfy these eco-tourists.

It is a spectacular destination with the world’s three tallest mountain ranges, lush green plateaus, colourful valleys, dazzling waterfalls, and much more which cannot be described in words.

Secondly, a major chunk of tourists are fond of adventurous activities. To accommodate them, G-B offers a wide range of activities such as trekking, paragliding, skiing, fishing, and boating etc. Moreover, diversified cultural and colourful festivals along with the tradition of hospitality and the general warmth the people of G-B exude, makes this place all the more an attraction for tourists.

Despite so many striking features, why is this region still far behind other countries, considering its natural scenic beauty?

The problem lies in the poor projection and promotion of this destination. The issue of poor infrastructure, accessibility issues, and security conditions in the past have also deteriorated G-B’s image further. However, in reality, a lot of work is in progress to resolve these issues. We just need to work hard to change the poor perception the world has about G-B.

I’ve devised a two-way approach to handle this situation tactfully.

Highlight the progress being undertaken in G-B

The operation taking place in the northern areas, Zarb-e Azb, has reduced security issues to a great extent. Hence, disseminating the success of this mission to the general public is critical at this point.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has been providing two regular flights to G-B since a while now, which addresses the misconception regarding the accessibility of this region. Moreover, the Lowari Tunnel is under progress, which will facilitate travellers to a great extent.

Numerous hydropower plants have been established to provide electricity to industrial and civilian areas. And the investment of $46 billion for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will definitely have a positive impact on this region as well. The government needs to identify and work on lucrative investment opportunities

It is a fact that tourists are always attracted to progress, which is why developed countries have a booming tourism industry. G-B is a region blessed with so many productive resources; however, there is a dire need to work on improving the existing businesses in order to attract foreign investment in this region. Tourism in Pakistan will definitely get the required boost once it gets the right sort of investment.

We can take the example of the gemstone industry; it could be a rewarding field if efforts are made in the right direction. This resource can bring in huge revenues, only if the latest technology is deployed for mining and extracting.

The export of organic fruits is another profitable business, but yet again, it is suffering miserably due to inadequate substandard packaging and preservation techniques. The unavailability of proper cold storages is further creating obstacles.

The aforementioned areas, if developed correctly, can play a vital role in the prosperity of the region and our country. Highlighting such investment opportunities will help change the negative perception the world has about G-B.

Promoting Pakistan through social media tools

The concerned authorities need to develop a thorough planned campaign in order to project the progress of our country.

The campaign should be built by combining various social media tools to generate awareness about beautiful destinations within Pakistan. Simultaneously, it is crucial to create awareness about developments underway, concurrently highlighting available investment opportunities. The following steps would prove to be positive steps:

1. Contacting international bloggers, famous travelling websites would be highly beneficial.

2. Collaborating with different tourism organisations, such as World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) is highly recommended to formulate plans for mutual benefits.

3. Proper management and utilisation of prospective tourist database

4. Designing and publicising tours filled with events and festivals on social media forums would attract the attention of foreigners.

Although there are several ways to promote tourism in the short run, however, to achieve sustainability in the long run, there is a dire need to change the perception of tourists. We need to work on the overall progress of this region.

Secondly, the projection of this progress on social media is fundamental in order to achieve this target. We all need to play a part in this drive for reviving tourism.

At the moment, there are a few websites and Facebook pages working towards the revival of tourism in this region. Being Pakistanis, we need to support such activities in order to build a progressive image of Pakistan and to promote tourism and other industries.

So let’s play our part and provide G-B and Pakistan with the appreciation it deserves.

Sana Sabir

Sana Sabir

The author is a program manager at the University of Management and Technology.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Headstrong

    Actually the solution is quite simple – return GB to its rightful fold under the territorial integrity of Jammu and Kashmir within India. The people there will bless you for it and they can begin living a life.Recommend

  • massimo oriani

    I’m planning a vacation in G-B for next summer. I’m italian and whenever I tell anyone about my plans they tell me that I’m crazy and that I’m gonna get beheaded. Ignorance is the main problem, so, yes, promotion of this area’s safety even more than its beauty is a priority. Also, I had a hard time finding a travel guide (like Lonely Planet or similar), that should also be pushed as an agenda, publicize the area in general.
    Massimo OrianiRecommend

  • Umer Ijaz

    This is a well-written content and the topic is among those that have always been close to my heart. I always wish that this region of Pakistan should get its deserving recognition. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth and should be explored and projected as much as possible. This blog has well-described all key areas of the topic along with some suggestions. Good Job !Recommend

  • Umer Ijaz

    This is a well-written content and the topic is among those that have always been close to my heart. I always wish that this region of Pakistan should get its deserving recognition. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth and should be explored and projected as much as possible. This blog has well-described all key areas of the topic along with some suggestions. Good Job !Recommend

  • Najeeb Ullah

    Thank you for highlighting some issues in my homeland gilgit-baltistan. There is one misinformation army operation is going on in tribal regions not gilgit-baltistan. These are totally on the opposite side of the country. In fact the tribal region is closer to islamabd and Punjab than it is to gb.(google map will help ;) ). The major issue in gilgit is not security concerns and has never been like law and order issues in Pakistani urban regions. The issue in GB is illegal presence of pak govt. Pakistan openly says gilgit is disputed yet again it has been ruling it like a colony. Recommend

  • Fatimah

    @headstrong,

    First of all please explain what made you say that G-B is the part of occupied Kashmir. please share any evidence that it was even once the part of occupied Kashmir. IT WAS NEVER THE PART!!!
    secondly if this is the solution where is the demonstration that people living in occupied are more prosperous then G-B.Recommend

  • rationalist

    “Why Gilgit-Baltistan is not given the appreciation it deserves”

    Because it is at best a disputed territory or at worst a part of India.Recommend

  • rationalist

    Make sure to write your will and goodbye messages to your family before you go.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    Madam, G-B was part of the princely state of J&K at the time of partition. That makes it disputed, regardless of what you people say.
    Secondly, you have to only read your own media reports to know the state of people there. They have been displaced by people from other provinces, it is a stateless state where citizens don’t even have basic human rights. The less we speak of women’s rights and minorities rights, the better. Given a choice, they would love to be part of India, your propaganda notwithstanding. No wonder pakistan refused to vacate it to hold a plebiscite, as they had initially agreed to under the UN resolutions. Recommend

  • Aziz Bhatti

    The purpose of this blog is to tell the people world over regarding tourism potential of Gilgit-Baltistan, its scenic beauty and famous tourism attractions. This blog is not meant for discussing or settling territorial disputes between Pakistan and India which are unresolved for the last 68 years. So please don’t mix politics with service to humanity. This area is already well visited by people from world over and has capacity to be turned into great tourism attraction. The topic of blog seems bit contentious so i suggest to the author to change the topic to , TOURISM POTENTIAL AND ATTRACTIONS OF GILGIT-BALTISTAN.Recommend

  • Aziz Bhatti

    Although i am not for discussing political issues here but can anyone tell me why India does not want to discuss Kashmir and adjoining areas, let alone taking it to UN again for implementation of UN resolution?Recommend

  • Headstrong

    Sir, India is willing to discuss Kashmir. But, for us, the core issue is terror being imported into the country. The Ufa statement makes it clear that all issues must be discussed – but the NSA talks were about terror – that is very clear from the statement.
    Could you please elaborate on ‘adjoining areas’?Recommend

  • Aziz Bhatti

    Kashmir dispute is route cause of all our problems but India does not want to solve this issue. India insists on keeping it bilateral matter, why not talk at UN or involve some mediator to solve it. Indian ministers vowed to use terrorism to punish Pakistan. There are proofs of Indian involvement in Baluchistan. So the list is long.
    Solution is get to basic issue and all subsidiary issues ll also be settled.
    Adjoining means all areas adjoining Kashmir valley and under dispute.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    India has time and again reiterated that she is willing to talk on ‘all issues’. Please read the Ufa Declaration – also read what the Declaration said about the NSA talks. The Declaration was very specific that the talks were to be on terror. Similarly, the Rangers/BSF talks and the DGMO talks were to be on enhancing CBMs on LoC. Do you expect the DGMOs to also talk Kashmir? Tomorrow, if there’s a cricket series, would you expect Virat Kohli to also come with some solutions for Kashmir? NSAs have a specific mandate – security. At least our NSA is not mandated to discuss political issues, such as Kashmir. How can he talk Kashmir with Sartaj Aziz?
    The pakistani game was evident immediately after Ufa. The pressure on Nawaz Sharif was evident, as Kashmir was not mentioned in the Ufa Declaration, but terror was. He may have had good intentions, but obviously he cannot stand up to your “Boys”. Within hours of the Ufa Declaration, the NSA talks were doomed with Sartaj Aziz’s statements. You really think it got called off just before the talks? Its fate was sealed right then.
    If you have proof of Indian involvement in Balochistan, please present it, rather than always threatening to do so and going to the media with threats to “expose” India to the UN and the international community. So far, that’s all it has been. If there really was credible evidence, then you would acted, not merely threatened.
    I don’t doubt for a moment that India could well be involved. But then, what did you expect? pakistan could go on interfering in India’s affairs with impunity? At some time there would be reprisal. Now you have it – in spades. The message is clear – stop your interference, we’ll stop ours.
    What is clear is that this Indian government has decided that it will set talks on its terms – that is terror first (being India’s priority), then Kashmir. So either you accept, or wait for subsequent Indian governments to change its priorities. Good luck on that….
    Thank you for clarifying on “adjoining areas” – do they also include G-B and PoK? Because they certainly do, in our point of view.Recommend

  • Aziz Bhatti

    India wants to talk only on what suits it like trade n terror in India etc. That cant happen. Both countries have to talk on all issues including core issue of Kashmir. If your NSA is not mandated , put someone who is mandated.
    Frankly speaking, Pakistan and India talks on major issues will not accrue any result till UN or international mediators are not involved.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    Then you should have thought of it before the Ufa Agreement was signed. Did you not know that the NSAs were to meet – and to discuss terror? Why shift the goalposts subsequently?
    Are there any agreements that you people sign that you can honour – or is that word foreign to you?
    You didn’t answer on my question on G-B and poK. Recommend

  • Aziz Bhatti

    Has India fulfilled UN resolutions on Kashmir, has it fulfilled Shimla accord , has it fulfilled Lahore accord , has it fulfilled Khatmandu accord. So who does not fulfill accords. And Ufa agreement didn’t say that nothing else ll be discussed.
    You didn’t ask me anything about GB and Azad J&K. You can ask now, but let me tell you , these areas have been liberated from Maharja of Kashmir by the people of those areas and are being ruled by people of those areas themselves.
    So actual dispute is areas of Jammu and Kashmir under illegal occupation of India in violation of basic principal of partition of the sub continent.

    Till the time route cause is not addressed, talks between Pakistan and India ll remain inconclusive and futile.
    Be realistic and don’t be biased.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    ET – why are you blocking my response? I’m not saying anything more offensive than what Aziz is saying.

    Please read history – the unbiased version. India took the Kashmir issue to the UN. The UN resolutions were agreed to by both India and pakistan. But it was pakistan who refused to abide by the terms of the resolution, AFTER having agreed to them. pakistan refused to pull its troops out as stipulated by the resolutions, AFTER which India was to similarly pull out majority of troops, retaining only as many troops required in both J&K AND poK to conduct the plebiscite. Everyone (but you people of course) knows that if the plebiscite had been held then, Shaikh Abdullah would have ensured that all of J&K, poK and G-B would have voted in India’s favour. That is the reason why pakistan refused to stick to the terms of the UN resolutions. Those were under Chapter VI and were un-enforceable and the plebiscite didn’t happen. pakistan systematically changed the demography of poK and G-B, while fomenting terrorism in J&K. pakistan also ceded land of the disputed area to China. pakistan tried unilaterally to change the status-quo in 1965 and 1999 but failed miserably both times. In 1971, it underwent a thorough loss, but India showed magnanimity by agreeing to Bhutto’s request and signing the Simla Accord, where it stipulated that all disputes would be solved bilaterally. But alas, India had not expected that pakistan would continue its perfidy. pakistan continues to dishonour all the agreements it has signed.
    You are living in la la land if you think G-B and poK are not disputed. “liberated” indeed! India has resolved that it would get back the areas held illegally by pakistan, and it will.Recommend

  • Aziz Bhatti

    Shimla agreement didn’t accrue any result. Why india does not go to UN again.
    See, both countries have different interpretation of various agreements. This discussion, too, can go on endlessly purposelessly if you stick to rhetoric.
    Please suggest some workable solution which would be acceptable to both the countries and result in bringing peace and prosperity to this region.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    “Different interpretations”! Yeah, that’s very correct. One side sticks to them while the other doesn’t. In such a scenario, what workable solution is possible? UN – not adhered to by pakistan. Simla – ditto. Lahore Declaration – your COAS clandestinely undertakes the Kargil fiasco. Ufa – backtrack within a day of signing. Perfidy seems to be your second nature. And you say that we stick to rhetoric! Recommend

  • Aziz Bhatti

    “Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and his Pakistan counterpary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry issued a joint statement in the Russian city of Ufa, after a bilateral meeting between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif.

    Here is the full statement:

    The Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India met today on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Ufa. The meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere. The two leaders exchanged views on issues of bilateral and regional interest.

    They agreed that India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development. To do so, they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues.

    Both leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and agreed to cooperate with each other to eliminate this menace from South Asia.

    They also agreed on the following steps to be taken by the two sides:

    1. A meeting in New Delhi between the two NSAs to discuss all issues connected to terrorism.”

    .
    Can u see , ALL ISSUES, written above twice in ufa statement ?
    Who backed out from discussing all issues , surely india..
    Please stop being sarcastic like ladies. Rise above petty bickering , show that you a person of acumen who can think logically and you are worth discussing such serious issues.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    Ha! Your bluff has already been called, sir. Your NSA made it very clear that the agenda for talks would NOT be restricted to terror. He stated in his press conference that the agenda should be “open ended”!
    Your misogyny is also notable – seems that you are a big fan of Faisal Qureshi, who consider ladies to be some kind of sub-humans.
    This is not an argument you can win. 24 hours after Ufa you people already killed the declaration. The rest was merely a sideshow. Bottom line – you people cannot be trusted, even after you sign agreements. No comebacks on my other assertions? UN on Kashmir 1948? Simla? Lahore Declaration? Perfidious much? Recommend

  • Aziz Bhatti

    You can not reply what i ask, you can not analyse what i tell, you just know rhetoric. So u too better start working in movies and be happy in your imagination..Recommend

  • Headstrong

    Trust you to make personal remarks. That is the last refuge for you people when you have no replies to my questions. I have answered every question you posed – but you bring in words like “rhetoric”. The fact is the world has stopped listening to you on disputes with India, in spite of all your attempts to internationalise them. This is because the world recognises the perfidy you people keep committing. You can’t keep your word on a single agreement, which you sign. The latest coming out of your leaders that whatever Parvez Musharraf agreed to, cannot be adhered to because he was not democratically elected. And you people wonder why you have no credibility left?Recommend