ISLAMABAD: Starting from Eid Al Fitr, at least 300,000 tourists from across Pakistan have so far visited the country’s north-western once militancy hit Swat Valley.
Confirming this, officials and residents said that during this time not a single act of violence took place in Swat valley, which is known for its archaeological sites of Gandhara civilisation and scenic hamlets.
They said that a multitude of tourists were seen in Kalam, Bahrain, Madyan, Malam Jabba, Marghuzar, Saidu Baba, Fizaghat, Mingora and other spots of Swat. They said that restoration of people’s confidence to visit the valley was a great achievement of the local administration.
Since 2008 when Taliban loyal to Maulana Fazlullah gained control in the area and parts of Kohistan, Dir and Malakand protected area etc most of the tourist spots presented a deserted look.
However, owing to sacrifices rendered by people of Swat and law-enforcement agencies for restoration of peace the tourists have started reaching the valley in droves to enjoy serenity and beauty of small hamlets of Swat and cultural heritage.
People of Swat are known for their hospitality; they welcome visitors with open heart, accommodate them in their homes and hujras (guesthouses) and serve food free of cost to encourage and provide them opportunity to enjoy their tour.
However, some hotel owners, tandoor walas (bakers), and petrol pump owners at the main tourist stations have been fleecing tourists on the pretext of artificial shortage of various items.
During rush of tourists, Rs2,000 to Rs8,000 is charged for a single room for one night stay in hotels while the price of petrol touches as high as Rs550 per litre.
Khurshid Ahmed, a resident of Bahrain, told this scribe that about 300 motorcycles were seen stranded in different areas and over 1,600 tourists trapped in Kalam due to shortage of petrol during past few days.
He said that work on Kalam-Havad road should be completed as proper communications system was vital to growth of tourism.
Kalam Hotels Association general secretary Rahmat Din Siddiqi told this correspondent that this year the number of tourists remained satisfactory despite unfavourable conditions.