The Journey Of Tribal Areas From Terrorism To Tourism
The number of tourists visiting tribal districts has been increased massively, since the restoration of peace in the region. Tourism has emerged as an important sector that can serve as an engine for mustering sustainable economic growth in the most underdeveloped areas of Pakistan – tribal districts.
Tabsum Khan, 28, from Bannu is a teacher in the private school of Peshawar. She shares her experience of traveling to Razmak, Waziristan this winter. She shared her experience saying, “I was not believing that I will be able to witness such a crowd in the area, that was considered a ‘buffer zone’ a year ago. I heard too much about Razmak, as people termed it ‘Small London’ and after visiting it, I found the place justifying its name of Small London.” While recommending the place to other people, she said that “I found Razmak one of the coolest places in the region and I think such place is more convenient than Murree for the people living in northern areas.”
Tribal districts of Pakistan consisting of seven districts and six FRs have a total population of 5,001,676 according to the 2017 census. Due to its border with Afghanistan, tribal areas have always been in war after 9/11. The tourism industry of the area was also badly affected by the wave of terrorism that Pakistan witnessed in the past few years. But after military action against terrorists, peace is gradually returning to these areas which were once rife with terrorists.
“Tribal area before operations was one of the most un-secure places and people from different areas were did not even think to visit or explore these places, but now after military operations, people are visiting tribal areas and exploring the nature and opportunities in the area,” said Hamza Mahsud, while talking to me. Hamza is a tribal-based journalist, who is running an online media outlet from South Waziristan. He remembered the old days of FATA saying that “there was no tourism and people were unaware of the tourism industry in tribal areas but now the time has changed and people are visiting and exploring tribal districts. This winter I saw for the first time that people from Punjab were visiting tribal areas to enjoy snowfall.”
The territory of tribal areas is very rugged, with rivers and a range of mountains as high as 16,000 feet. Overall, it’s full of unexplored high mountains, gushing streams, the lush green pastures, the thick forests, trails and beautiful valleys full of flowers. The area close to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has a variety of flora and centuries-old architecture. There are many historical and archaeological sites that reflect the rich heritage and culture of erstwhile Fata.
Bilal Hamid, a traveler and the owner of a tourist club named The Karakorum Club last year explored the tribal districts of Pakistan. He said that “tourism infrastructure and peace has been maintained in tribal areas, since the military operations. He shed light on the important factors for tourism and said that “the most important requirement for the promotion of tourism in the area is the availability of reasonable tourism infrastructure. Tourist activity in any area cannot take place unless a minimum level of infrastructure exists in the area.”
He further suggested the government to develop this infrastructure to attract domestic and international tourists in the area because the present state of tourism and infrastructure in erstwhile FATA cannot be termed as satisfactory.
Recently, while acknowledging the potential of tribal areas, the Tourism Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has selected 25 areas in the province including the southern belt and parts of the merged tribal areas for the promotion of tourism.