July 2004 News

Tour operators fear loss of revenue - Killing of passengers

6 July 2004
The Dawn
Our Correspondent

Skardu: Tour operators, transporters and political figures condemned the firing on a passenger bus in which three people lost their lives and seven others sustained injuries in Kohistan area on Sunday. They expressed concern over the increasing incidents of terrorism and looting of passengers on the Mansehra-Kohistan section of the KKH and held local police responsible for such incidents. Renowned mountaineer and conqueror of Everest Nazir Sabir termed such incidents in recent past a conspiracy to damage the tourism of Northern Areas, which is the mainstay of the economy of the area. He said that last month some terrorists tried to kidnap a British couple near Hunza to strike a blow to tourism as well as tarnish the world-renown peaceful image of the area. He said the government should take cognizance of such incidents and arrest the culprits. 'On the one hand the government has not provided adequate security to the commuters and especially to foreign tourists travelling on the KKH and on the other it has dropped a major road project linking Kaghan with Chilas from the PSDP 2004-05 to provide alternative safe route to the commuters,' Dr Ghulam Abbas of Boloristan Thinkers Forum said. He said that the government instead of wasting huge amount on PTDC bureaucrats should spend the money on security along KKH and construction of the Jhalkad-Chilas road. Three persons lost their lives in the Sunday's incident. Many tourist groups cancelled their journey on the KKH to participate in the golden jubilee celebration of the first ascent to K-2, the second highest peak in the world. It was the third incident in the last six months on this section of the KKH. In the third week of April some bandits opened indiscriminate fire on a bus owned by the United Bus Service and two coasters of Silk Route and Natco near Basham, killing two passengers and injuring three others. Earlier in January a Natco coaster was hijacked by the bandits at Chattarplain, Mansehra District, and latter released after depriving them of their valuables. The commuters and transporters blamed the Kohistan police for not providing security to the passengers, especially the foreign tourists, and also not arresting the culprits. No one has so far been arrested in the previous such incidents which has emboldened the robbers, they said. 'Such incidents have increased on the Mansehra-Kohistan section of the internationally-known Karakuram Highway, making travel unsafe', Subedar Nisar Hussain, manager Mashabrum Bus Service told Dawn. Earlier police vehicles used to escort passenger vehicles along the Mansehra-Kohistan section of the KKH, but for the last two years the practice has been abandoned leaving the passengers at the mercy of the bandits and terrorists, he said.


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