.. by Prof RK Baig
Chitral district before its merger with KPK ( NWFP) was an independent state and has been a tourist resort since 1895 when the British imperial Forces were sent to Chitral to hold this hinterland due to its geo-political position in the hub of Hindu Kush. From that time onwards the white face of FARANGI was a common sight in summers in different valleys of Chitral, mostly in the high Hindu Kush region and they hired local porters to carry their luggage and the number of porters used to be in scores and in certain cases in hundreds for the nature of the Expedition.
The arrival of Farangi as called then, was a common sight and the state authorities did their best to make every article of food available to them as many items could not be brought from India or England or any other country. Nationals of other countries also came here e.g. German expedition in 1935 while there were no good relations between England and Germany and Hitler was threatening her neighbours with dire consequences but tourism did not suffer. All the arrangement from Peshawar to Chitral via Dir was organized and arrangements were made well before such an expedition was undertaken. The rulers of that time did their best to provide all kind of facilities to the tourists and the Britons were more spies than just ordinary tourists as they came regularly to glean info for the queen?s government and by such adventures rendered meritorious services but they brought enough cash with them and paid to the porters, the guides, cooks, state official for their help etc. The money went into local market and porters were in a position to buy certain food items for their families. It was a part time job in a few days but paying one. The tourist paid for the articles of food to the providers.
The payments to the porters, the cooks, guide, local official etc. continued till the end of the ruling family in 1954. The Norwegian Terich Mir expeditions in 1949 and 1950 were very big expeditions with more than 200m men and pack animals and in the following years the adventure activities doubled as a result of more info from the previous climbers who gave good publicity and more adventure tourists poured into Chitral despite the bad road system of that time. The climber?s teams brought more than enough provisions and the surplus amount such as rice, sugar, tea, coffee, cooking oil to the local porters. They also gave many of their luxury food items like high quality milk powder, liquid milk, chocolates, toffees, tents, ropes, crampons, feathered jackets, boots, and so on. This exposed the local porter to high quality finished food items and they were so coveted that many state official ran after them. This boom continued till 1980 when Russian intervention hit this side of tourism income of Chitral and the last expedition of this nature of a 10 member Swiss expedition reached SARAGHRAR BC. in 2005 and after that no expedition has come here.
The articles and items named in the previous lines beside the cash for porterage was too high and in most valleys of upper Chitral this summer income was a common feature which has now zeroed due to militancy as well as ignorance of our MNAs and MPAs because they know little or nothing at all about this sector. Chitral did not receive a fraction of the Royalty paid into Pak Embassies that was in millions and Chitralis deserved it. It was because of the inefficiency of our representatives, especially the Minister of state for Tourism who used to boast of his successes but time has proved that he was a big failure and so was his son who got votes of Generaql Pervaz Musharaf but crossed the floor and proved his moral degradation , untrustworthiness, being unreliable for future.
The income from Tourism stopped totally and the stake holders including porters are now penniless and a restructuring of the tourism policies requires immediate attention. More articles on this topic shall follow, Insha Allah: .. Prof Rehmat Karim Baig, Chitral 17 Jul 2918