Chitral: In the early 1990s the remote villages of Boroghil had no source of income. With harsh climate and meager resources villagers from such valleys lived off Yak butter and poppy cultivation. Then the road ended at Mastuj where a signboard put up by defense said ?no foreigner beyond this point?.
In 1992 with a series of meetings, the army at Islamabad was convinced that God created this area only for trekking and mountaineering . The signboard was thus thrown away by them and for the next 15 years tourism flourished in these valleys.
Porters finding a new source of income happily gave up growing poppy. After 9/11 with the fall of tourism the area was once again officially meant to be closed although a decision to this effect was never made anywhere. In fact, the region was completely forgotten.
A month back it really saddened me to get a letter from one of the most famous Pakistani climbers Mr Ashraf Aman. He is the very first Pakistani to climb K2 in 1977 and honoured with the Pride of Performance award in mountaineering.
Mr Ashraf Aman had addressed me as President of PATO ( Pakistan Association of Tour operators ) seeking help to get permission for a first ever skiing expedition to Darkot Chitral in the Hindukush.
This was a 14-member strong team of French skiers led by a famous French mountaineer Mr Pierre Neyret. Mr Ashraf Aman was being denied permission to visit the Hindukush with his guests having applied for it 6 months back.
I had to run around /correspond with a number of people from ministers to government departments trying to convince them that such delays do not at all help project Prime Minister Imran Khan?s vision for tourism. Finally, at last, permission to visit the area was granted today. With this excellent decision by the authorities hopefully the Boroghil and the Hindukush mountains will once again see trekking and Mountaineering that helps the livelihood of porters, guides and villagers of Tirich, Shah Junali, Thui, Darkot, Boroghil and Chilinji.
On behalf of villagers from these remote corners, I would like to thank army sources and the government to help bring this about. To my friends out there, time to flock back to these areas. .. Maqsood Ul Mulk, President PATO, 20 Apr 2019