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Gilgit Baltistan is a Paradise says a European tourist couple

By at August 28, 2013 | 8:00 am | 0 Comment

europeans-see-pakistani-beauty

Lauding scenic beauties in Pakistan, a foreign couple has admired the country as one of major tourism industries in the world. Felix Mengel, a representative of a German think tank (European Council on Foreign Relations), and her spouse Marianna from a London-based multilateral bank are on a Pakistan trip.

“Pakistan will be one of the best tourism industries, if law and order issue is addressed,” the couple said while talking to TheNation.

The German couple said, “Pakistan is a unique land with a spectacular northern side. Not a single European mountainous range matches the heights of Himalayas. Gilgit Baltistan, the northernmost entity sandwiched between the Hindukush and Karakoram ranges, is a paradise for tourists. It is the centre where the world’s three famous mountain ranges, the Himalayas, the Karakoram and the Hindukush meet. The climate of Gilgit Baltistan vary a lot as it is sunny some time and foggy the other moment,” said the couple.

“The fascinating northern Pakistan is a paradise for mountaineers, climbers, trekkers, hikers and anglers, with many of the mountains with height more than 7000m, the couple said.

Praising Pakistan, the tourists said, the presence of more than one hundred peaks with 7,000m height in the Karakoram Range and hundreds of nameless mountains below 6,000 metres are dashing points on the atlas for tourists.”

“Hunza Valley is a worth watching locality in Pakistan that could be considered another heaven. The K2 and Nanga Parbat are the most feared mountains in the world. Their shape, formation, size and colour provide tremendous contrast, which resist human being praising their beauty and description. K2, the undisputed monarch of the sky,” they held.

There are several high-altitude lakes in Gilgit Baltistan. The northern areas of Pakistan are rich in flora and fauna because of varied climatic conditions and ecosystems. Karakoram, connecting Pakistan to China, twists through three huge mountain ranges – the Himalaya, Karakoram and Pamir. The Indus River which covers entire Pakistan  flows northwest, and divides the Himalaya from the Karakoram, before being knocked south by the Hindu Kush. On the other hand, you may come across miles and miles of barren land with rocky mountains.

Source: The Nation

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Mountaineering course started at Passu in Gilgit Baltistan

By at August 27, 2013 | 8:10 am | 0 Comment

passu-course

Mountain Wilderness Italy, under its Wakhi project, initiated a 15-day specialized mountaineering course for a group of 25 aspiring mountaineers, instructors, altitude porters and trekking guides from Pakistan and Afghanistan. The training which started on August 25 at Passu, Gojal-Upper Hunza will be concluded on September 9, 2013. The trainees also include four young girls from Shimshal and three young girls from Wakhan, Afghanistan.

The purpose of this project is to provide set of highly qualified mountaineers the capability to become mountaineering instructors as a step to become self sufficient in the development process of building a soft mountain adventure tourism infrastructure in Northern Pakistan.

The famous Italian mountaineers Professor Carlo Alberto Pinelli and other instructors of Mounatin Wilderness International are facilitating the course.

Alpine Club of Pakistan and the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) is collaborating with Mountain Wilderness to make the training successful.

Mountain Wilderness, a non-governmental organizationdedicated to the preservation of mountain areas, has a worldwide reach with representatives on all continents.

passu-climbing course

Source: PT

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Samina Baig from Gilgit Baltistan conquered Mount Everest

By at May 19, 2013 | 6:44 am | 21 Comments

Samina Baig with her brother

Miss.Sameena Baig, First Pakistani woman mountaineer with her brother Mr. Mirza Ali hailing from Shimshal Gojal successfully climbed the world’s highest mountain “ MOUNT EVEREST.

This is a historic mountain climbing Expedition to Mt. Everes 2013 with the them of GENDER EQUALITY, in Pakistan`s adventure history,On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Mt.Everest, since its first ascent back in 1953, where hundreds of renowned mountaineers around the world celebrating this mega event of Mt.Everest, two Pakistani brother & sister carrying the green national flag to be part of this grand event. Samina Baig and Mirza Ali from Shimshal village located at the up part of Hunza valley of Gilgit- Baltistan went to represent our beloved country Pakistan in this event. Sameena Baig & Mirza Ali the famous young Pakistani climber achieved this milestone by scaling the world’s highest mountain. On May 19,2013 at 7:40 AM local time. Sameena Baig become the first woman mountaineer, while Mirza Ali the third and youngest Pakistani male to have the honor of raising national green flag on the top of the world’s highest point. The expedition starts from 1st April 2013 until 3rd June 2013. The team has attempted the mountain via the south face from Nepalese side. The expedition has booked with famous M/s Seven Summit a best Nepali tour operator. The expedition is privately sponsored by Mirza & Samina’s Kiwi friends & younggrasshopper.

Samina Baig and her brother climbing Everest. PHOTO: Pakyouthoutreach

Samina Baig and her brother climbing Everest. PHOTO: Pakyouthoutreach

From Mirza Ali’s blog

“Once at base camp, we will begin our acclimatization trips. This involves climbing to Camp 1, staying the night, then returning to base camp to rest, then climbing to Camp 1 and staying the night and climbing on to Camp 2 and staying the night, before returning to base camp and so on up to Camp 3.

Once our acclimatisation trips have finished, and assuming we are  in good health  and super fit physically and mentally, we’ll be ready to try for the summit, which should be mid May. We will wait for a good weather forecast or ‘window’ for the possible summit  attempt.”
Mt.Everest route

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Diverse, largest team of trekkers set new record

By at July 24, 2012 | 4:06 pm | 0 Comment

Gilgit

In the snowy peaks of Karakoram, a diverse team of trekkers have made a remarkable feat. On July 14, the 46-member team became the largest group of Pakistani trekkers to have scaled the 5,940-metre Gondogoro Pass in recent history.
The group set out from Skardu on July 1 and trekked all the way to Concordia, making various stops along the 140km journey. The team reached the K2 basecamp on July 7, where it spent the night and took off to scale the Gondogoro Pass, which is dubbed as the highest mountain pass of the world. They safely returned to Skardu on July 14.
The group constituted 27 expedition team members, five crew members and 14 porters, but what made it diverse was the age of the members. Among them were 65-year-old Abdul Qadir, 20-year-old Rabia Shahid, and the youngest, 18-year-old Hassan. An experienced mountaineer, Umar Javed, was also part of the expedition.
“This was the largest team of Pakistani mountaineers to have reached the K2 base camp and scaled the Gondogoro Pass,” Sakhi Hassan, the expedition’s organiser, told The Express Tribune. He said that usually teams of around four to seven experienced and physically-fit members set out to scale the pass, “which is why planning, organising and executing the expedition was a gigantic task”.
Hassan, who is an experienced mountaineer and also runs a mountaineering school in Skardu, said that he rounded up everyone and communicated details of the expedition to all the members through Facebook.
Talking about the expedition, he said the aged and weaker members were kept in the front rows, while experienced member were kept at the back, guiding and helping them along the way.
“Hats off to the trainers and organisers who made the impossible possible,” Qadir, the eldest among the group, commented after returning. “The two-week journey through the rough and tough mountains will be memorable,” added Javed, an avid trekker.
According to locals, Gondogoro Pass is attractive among mountaineers and trekkers and more than 80% of those who visit the region every year come to Skardu only to cross this pass. Locally known as “Gondogoro La (meaning pass)”, it is the highest mountain pass on the Gondogoro Glacier and provides scenic views of all the prominent peaks of the Karakoram Range, including K-2.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2012.

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Polo for Peace – A peace rally held in Gilgit Baltistan

By at May 7, 2012 | 4:45 am | 2 Comments

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Gilgit: Polo players from different teams of Gilgit – Baltistan attended a peace rally organized by the district administration of Gilgit. The unique peace rally started at the Aga Khan Shahi Polo Ground in Gilgit city. The rally was escorted by the Deputy Commissioner and the Assistant Commissioner of Gilgit, along with a number of police vehicles.

The polo players said that peace is vital for development of the region and all segments of the society need to play an active role for restoration of harmony.

Players of the winning team of 2011 Shandur Polo Festival were also part of the rally.

The unique event has has been appreciated by people across the region.

Source: Pamirtimes

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Siachen day 4: Search operation continues despite weather conditions

By at April 11, 2012 | 6:12 am | 0 Comment

Siachen

Search and rescue operations in Giari continue on the fourth day despite unfavourable weather conditions that have prevented the American, German and Swedish rescue teams from leaving for Skardu, Express News reported.

According to ISPR, a total of 452 persons including 69 civilians are employed for relief efforts.

Two bulldozers, two earth movers, three excavators and two dumpers are working day and night on the site.

Five points have been identified on the site where rescue work is in progress. Two points are being dug with equipment while three points are being dug manually.

American, German and Swedish rescue teams have arrived in Rawalpindi and are waiting for weather clearance to proceed to Giari. A seven-member SPD team is using a life detection kit and thermal imaging cameras for the rescue operation.

HRCP expresses sorrow

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed sorrow over the Siachen tragedy in a statement released here on Tuesday.

Stressing the need to prevent such incidents in future, the statement said that the current situation demands an inquiry into the “conditions in which the soldiers were stationed at the glacier.”

The HRCP also said that there was a need to reflect on the safety measures taken to protect the soldiers posted in Siachen, keeping in “mind the harsh climate and fickle nature of the terrain.”

Sharing grief with the families of 136 avalanche victims, the HRCP said it was unfortunate that both India and Pakistan continue to confront each other at Siachen, despite suffering great losses.

Appreciating the parliamentarians’ stance to resolve the Siachen issue through negotiations, the HRCP said it was important for both the countries to set their priorities right. Urging the governments of India and Pakistan to work towards peace, the statement issued by the HRCP said both the countries should spend their resources on the welfare of their people and not “military upkeep.”

Source: Tribune

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Over 100 foreigners evacuated from GB

By at April 9, 2012 | 8:08 am | 0 Comment

GB-foreigners

GILGIT: Pakistan Army on Sunday evacuated more than 100 foreign tourists and aid workers stranded in the restive Gilgit-Baltistan region following a deadly bout of sectarian violence that claimed about 20 lives in the region.

“They (foreigners) were shifted to Islamabad in army aircraft,” sources told The Express Tribune.

With the city under curfew and communication networks jammed for the past six days, the foreigners – mostly  Japanese – were stuck in various parts of G-B awaiting rescue.

“Most of them were tourists while others were NGO workers,” sources said, adding that they were shifted in Army C-130 aircraft that flew to Gilgit from Islamabad, making a detour into Skardu to collect the stranded foreigners there as well.

According to sources, nearly 80 of the foreigners were stranded in Hunza Valley while others in Skardu and Gilgit.

According to sources, a special army task force reached Gilgit from Islamabad on Sunday morning and conducted the operation.

A witness claimed to have seen nearly 100 foreigners in a five star hotel in Gilgit, who were later flown to the federal capital.

Sectarian violence broke out in Gilgit on Tuesday after assailants lobbed a hand grenade at a rally called by the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat (ASWJ), leaving six people dead and 50 injured.

In retaliation, at least 10 members of the Shia community were killed in Chilas as an enraged mob set alight four buses en route to Skardu and Gilgit via the Karakoram Highway.

Meanwhile, 31 persons being held captive in Nagar Valley for the past five days in retaliation for Chilas killings have still not been recovered despite government’s continued negotiations with the community elders.

The kidnapped people include a district health officer from Astore, Dr Rasheed, a civil judge Ayatullah and a banker, apart from 28 labourers. Gilgit remained under curfew for a sixth consecutive daywith Pakistan Army contingents, police and rangers patrolling deserted roads. In addition to scheduled PIA flights, traffic on the Karakoram Highway also remained suspended throughout the six days of curfew.

Stranded labourers face starvation

Nearly a hundred labourers from Mohmand and Bajaur Agencies have been stuck in G-B and need urgent help.

Abdul Khaliq, a labourer in Skardu, told The Express Tribune that the names of all the stranded labourers had been forwarded to the Skardu District Coordination Officer (DCO) and the sports minister had been contacted for help as well. “So far, no one has come forward to help us,” he added.

Another labourer, Isaar Gul said they have been without food for the last five days. He added that whenever the curfew was relaxed in order for people to get food, “either someone starts sectarian violence all over again or the shopkeepers refuse to sell anything to us because we are not part of their sect.”

He claimed a colleague of theirs was severely beaten when he went shopping for food items and had to return empty-handed.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2012.

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Avalanche traps 135 people of Pak Army near Siachen

By at April 7, 2012 | 8:14 am | 0 Comment

avalanche

ISLAMABAD: At least 135 people, including 124 servicemen and 11 civilians, went missing early Saturday after an avalanche hit them at Gayari sector near Siachen Glacier, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said. 

The incident occurred at about 6am at an altitude of about 16,000 feet (4 876.8 meters) and 180 miles northeast of Skardu the capital of Baltistan.

Troops with sniffer dogs, aided by helicopters, were frantically trying to find signs of life in the deep snow after the avalanche engulfed the camp in mountainous Gayari, Siachen, in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. Heavy machinery has been flown in from Rawalpindi.

A team of doctors and paramedics also rushed to the high-altitude militarised region, which is close to the de facto border with India and where temperatures plummet to minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94F).

“More than 100 soldiers of NLI (Northern Light Infantry) including a colonel were trapped when the avalanche hit a military camp,” army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.

He later added that despite hours of searching and contrary to local media reports, no bodies or survivors had been found. An ISPR release also revised the figure to 135 trapped.

“It’s too early to say anything,” he replied when asked about the chances of finding anyone alive after more than 12 hours. “The rescue operation is under way.”

List of names of all those buried under the snow can be found here.

ISPR has provided the following helpline numbers from where relatives of the buried soldiers can inquire about updates:

051-50932040, 051-5590212, 0321-5136525

President, Prime Minister express sorrow, regret

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani expressed deep sorrow and regret over the “unfortunate snow slide” near Siachen.

A statement from the prime minister says that he is in constant contact with the concerned authorities regarding the rescue operation and has said that the incident will not undermine high morale of the soldiers and officers.

President Asif Ali Zardari has also expressed concern over the incident and prayed for the soldiers’ early recovery.

Zardari has directed concerned authorities to expedite the rescue and relief operation to save the lives of those stranded in the snow, adding that all possible options and facilities should be utilised for their safe recovery, including  full cooperation and assistance from the civil administration

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has also expressed sorrow over the incident and has asked the nation to pray for the soldiers.

List of names of those buried can be found here.

Source: Tribune

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Tragic Toll After Chaos on Mountain

By at November 28, 2011 | 2:46 am | 0 Comment

k2 basecamp

(The New York Times): For two months, dozens of mountaineers had huddled at camps below the peak, acclimating to the thin air, practicing their ascent and waiting, waiting, for the moment.

The final push began in the dark hours after midnight on Aug. 1. Members of at least five expeditions — and perhaps as many as nine — began the last leg of their climb to conquer Mount Everest’s slightly shorter but far more dangerous sister, K2, its peak towering, glistening and pyramidlike above them, laden with snow from recent storms.

Gerard McDonnell, 37, an Irish engineer climbing with a Dutch team, wrote on his blog when the start date was set: “Let luck and good fortune prevail!!! Fingers crossed.”

But luck did not hold. On the way up the last 2,000 feet, a Serbian climber fell to his death, and a Pakistani porter died trying to recover his body. And on the way back, a chunk of glacier splintered and came crashing down, sweeping at least four climbers on ropes to their deaths and leaving a handful of others trapped in the death zone above 26,000 feet — desperately cold, starved for oxygen and without ropes.

Over the next few hours and days, some of those still left on K2 battled their way to safety, some fell to their deaths and others were simply lost forever in the cold wastes of the mountain.

Bulletins posted on the Dutch expedition’s Web site charted the unfolding tragedy: “Gerard McDonnell: status unknown. We have not heard or seen anything from Gerard.”

On Tuesday, the climber likely to be the last of the survivors, an Italian, Marco Confortola, staggered on frostbite-blackened feet to the base camp, for a time refusing help and oxygen, preferring to make his own way down.

“I understand that many died, and that only a few made it down,” he said by telephone, in a conversation reported by an Italian scientific official, as he waited for a Pakistani military rescue helicopter to pluck him from the unforgiving mountainside. “I am happy that I was one of them.” He was airlifted to a nearby town Wednesday morning for medical treatment, Reuters reported.

In all, 11 lives were lost in the worst episode on K2 since 13 climbers died over a two-week span in 1986, and one of the worst disasters in mountaineering history.

In the aftermath, criticism has swirled about poor preparations and delays caused by climbers laying ropes improperly in the Bottleneck, the precipitous climb just below the summit.

There were questions, too, about whether the attempt to reclaim a fallen climber was too costly and whether some climbers failed to turn back when it was clear that they would not make it back in daylight. The presence of hired high-altitude porters on some of the teams raised questions about whether some of the expeditions might have been commercial, guided efforts with incompletely prepared climbers — reminiscent of the disastrous 1996 Everest climb that claimed eight lives.

Yet to most, the deaths were simply the latest on a notoriously dangerous mountain — known as the mountaineer’s mountain — on which many climbers have lost their lives since it was first conquered in 1954.

K2 is known as the world’s hardest and most dangerous mountain for climbers, more challenging even than Everest. Farther north and 1,500 miles from Everest, it collects heavy snow and storms, and climbers have only a few days each year when they can try for the peak, usually in early August. “For a professional, seasoned mountaineer it’s more of the holy grail than Everest,” said the veteran American climber Ed Viesturs. “There is no easy way to climb K2.”

In a message sent back to friends, three South Koreans from the Flying Jump K2 Expedition expressed their awe about “the mountain of the mountains” and “the mountain that invites death.”

Last Friday morning, the “weather was perfect,” said Nicholas Rice, an American from Los Angeles, who would later turn back before the Bottleneck because of frostbite. He ended up recording, on blog posts, much of what is known about what went wrong, who died when, and why.

The various expeditions — with members from several countries, including South Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, Italy, the United States and France — set off from Camp 4, the last camp before the summit, between midnight and 3 a.m., Mr. Rice said. No one is certain exactly how many climbers were there, because no one coordinates the expeditions. Many other details remain unclear.

To reach the summit, it is necessary to climb the Bottleneck, then traverse left under the glacier’s giant overhanging brow.

The first fatality came early, when Dren Mandic, a Serb, fell to his death in the Bottleneck, followed by the Pakistani porter, Jehan Baig.

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K2 Survivor Wilco van Rooijen, In His Own Words

By at November 28, 2011 | 2:41 am | 0 Comment

k2

Text by Kirkpatrick Reardon – Photograph by Ed Viesturs

Clear skies and a new moon greeted Dutch mountaineer Wilco van Rooijen at the summit of K2 on Friday, August 1. That was before deteriorating visibility and an ice-avalanche turned that calm night into one of the deadliest in the history of the Himalaya, stranding van Rooijen with his climbing partners overnight at an altitude of 8,000 meters. Van Rooijen struggled slowly down the mountain face, and, incredibly, survived a second night at high altitude before reuniting with his team two days later. Van Rooijen recounted his struggle for survival with ADVENTURE on Wednesday morning.

Where were you when the accident happened?
I was on the way back from the summit. We were at the summit at 7 p.m. in the evening, which is much too late. It was completely dark. I decided to spend the night above the Bottleneck and the traverse. I never saw the accident.

Do you know what caused the avalanche?
It wasn’t a real avalanche. An avalanche is a lot of snow. It was a serac that fell down and that was the only explanation for killing three people. There was so much happening on the mountain. Some people died because they were lost and couldn’t find camp IV.

How did you survive on the mountain?
I spent two nights on the mountain. I got third degree frostbite on all my toes and both feet. My mountaineering experience let me be quiet and patient enough to wait for better weather where we were.

Did you sleep on the mountain? How’d you keep warm?
The sleep was not a problem. We were busy for 20 hours. If you sit, you fall asleep immediately. The only problem is avoiding frostbite. The only thing to do is to keep on drinking. If you don’t drink at high altitude, then you dry out very quickly. You have a high breathing frequency and you get dry very quickly without noticing it. I took two liters of water to the summit. For the first hour I had some hot tea. For the last hour I had some energy drink. I lost some of my water on the way to the summit. I thought it wasn’t a problem. I regretted that later.

What was the biggest problem you faced?
The biggest problem was that we couldn’t find camp IV in the darkness. We went down in the darkness because we went so late to the summit. And we were so late to the summit because there were so many people going to the summit.

Why was the peak so crowded?
The whole month of July was very bad so we had to wait for a weather window at the end of July or the beginning of August. All expedition teams were waiting for the same moment. We had to wait at camp 4 to get through the Bottleneck. At the end of the Bottleneck, there is a huge serac hanging. It was a few hundred meters wide and high, and every moment this serac can fall. Sometimes they weigh thousands of kilos. Three people were killed immediately. You know if you’re going to climb K2 that you are willing to face these risks.

Were the other climbers less experienced than you?
In the daylight [before the summit attempt] when we were fixing the rope, one man fell down. That was a really stupid accident. These accidents are not supposed to happen on K2. People are not used to climbing these technical parts. Everest you can climb without technical experience. Here you have camp IV then snow (glacier) and then the Bottleneck and then a very technical traverse at altitude of 8,200 meters. And then you have to go to the summit. If you are luck you will have a full moon. It was full moon on the 18th of July.

What happened while you were coming down?
After I spent the night, it was difficult to come down. I had radio contact with my climbing partners in camp IV, but it was so hard finding each other, and then we didn’t find camp four. I was on the wrong side of the mountain. People at base camp saw me go over the wrong side of the ridge and they radioed people in camp IV. I had to sit out a whiteout because I couldn’t see anything and I knew I couldn’t go down any further. So I waited for a few hours. And then I saw through the clouds that I could go down on an easier glacier. I was all alone.

What were you thinking when you were up there?
The next morning when I tried to go down I had to go down very difficult terrain. And there were whiteout conditions. I knew it was impossible for a helicopter to fly there. Either you go down or you sit and wait. You sit knowing that no one is coming. Or you go down taking the big technical risk and if you fall you are lost.

Then I saw through the clouds an easier slope. I had to climb at my limits without using a rope to get to this easier slope. It was a long time I was ping-ponging between hope and failure. Finally I had the luck that when the clouds disappeared and I could reach the easier slopes. I had gone a long time without eating or drinking. I got blisters on my tongue and lips. It was like hell. I was drinking snow. There was only one focus: going down. If I get more oxygen I will think more clearly.

There were so many moments when I thought I saw a climber and thought I heard voices, but I knew there couldn’t be people there. It was a scary moment when I knew I was reaching my limits. I was thinking no one knows where I am and they will not be coming back.

Can you describe the rescue?
After two nights, I crawled into camp III. At that time I didn’t have a clue it was camp III on our route. I was thinking it was two strangers. But they were my friends. They started melting snow and gave me oxygen.

I was lucky I only froze my toes. If there was more wind my face ears and face would have froze.

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The KKH — a pain to travel on

By at November 28, 2011 | 2:32 am | 0 Comment

KKH

HUNZA: The Karakoram Highway (KKH) is a strategic road for Pakistan. It is used by national as well as international traffic since it provides for a land border between Pakistan and China. And for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, it provides a crucial land link to the rest of the country.

However, in recent years, it has suffered considerably from the elements. And while this is only to be expected, given the harsh terrain and unpredictable weather of the regions it traverses, what is worrying is that those in charge of its maintenance do not seem to be doing their job.

The highway is badly damaged in some places and the result is that while previously it would take between 15-16 hours to travel from Islamabad to Gilgit by bus, now it takes well above 20. Moreover, a large stretch of the highway between central Hunza and Upper Hunza remains blocked for the last 20 months because of the massive landslide at Attabad.

Because of this, people are suffering economically and even health wise, due to a shortage of medicines or because they cannot easily reach a hospital. Once travelling on the KKH was considered a thing not to miss out on, but now it is a positively painful experience. Of course, this cannot be good for one of the regional economy’s mainstays: Tourism.

By Muhammad Ali

Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th,  2011.

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Road security: Closed-circuit cameras to be installed along KKH

By at February 8, 2011 | 2:05 am | 0 Comment

NATCO

GILGIT: The Northern Areas Transport Corporation (Natco) will install cameras on Karakoram Highway (KKH) to ensure security for passengers, official sources told The Express Tribune on Sunday.

“The movement of passenger buses on the KKH and other Natco vehicles via this highway will be monitored for safety,” said an official privy to the development. Natco is sponsored by the Gilgit-Balistan (G-B) government and is the largest transport company in G-B. It provides bus and jeep services across the region and to the rest of the country as well as to China.

“The cameras will also help overcome corruption in transportation of wheat to the region,” said the official, referring to allegations that marred Natco and civil supply department “for stealing and selling wheat to others enroute to Gilgit”.

The official added that he was not aware of the number of cameras likely to be fixed on the route. However, a complete record of all the Natco vehicles travelling on the route will be maintained in the department.

According to a recent report, police recovered more than 1,000 bags of wheat stolen from Natco buses somewhere in Kohistan. The driver is still in police custody, sources said. The wheat was being supplied to G-B as part of its annual quota of 1.5 million bags.
“It is a million rupee project and the results will be wonderful,” the official said.

Natco is also set to launch a passenger boat service over Attabad Lake. Boats will be in limited numbers, but unlike the present boats, they will be safe for the voyage, he added.

Sources said that Natco Managing Director Zafar Iqbal, who was recently promoted to grade 21 on the recommendation of the Natco Board of Directors, has made efforts to turn the corporation into a profitable organisation. Iqbal has been heading Natco for the past 20 years.

By Shabbir Mir
Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2011.

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Come rain, snow or sleet: Snowfall blankets G-B mountains

By at December 31, 2010 | 2:11 am | 0 Comment

The mountains in Gilgit were covered in snow after the season’s first snowfall. PHOTO: EXPRESS TRIBUNE

GILGIT: Heavy snowfall blanketed mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) on Thursday, ending months-long dry spell that had affected the human life and ecology of this mountain region as well.

“Thank God the dry spell is finally over,” said Nauman Malik, a resident of Gilgit on Thursday, as mountains received snowfall, drizzling in all the towns.

Snowfall also occurred  in high altitudes of Astor valley, Hunza, Gojal and Baltistan region.

Scientists say that if the northern parts of the country receive less snow and rains in winter, the country will face water shortage in the summer, a reason that directly affects crops production in Punjab and other provinces.

The dry spell had also caused respiratory infections especially among children as temperatures plummeted to -17 Celsius in some parts including Astore, Skardu Gojal and Ghizer in December.

“The dry weather in winter is usually bad for people especially children if it doesn’t rain for long,” said Dr Iftikhar Ahmed, a child specialist. With the rain, a lot of  dust, allergy and germs  are gone.

Pakistan International Airlines also cancelled scheduled flights to the town in view of the inclement weather, forcing hundreds of passengers to travel via the dilapidated Karakoram Highway (KKH).

Passengers reaching Gilgit from Rawalpindi by KKH said that the rain had triggered minor landslides at
various points.

By Shabbir Mir

Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2010.

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