Picked up goods from Karachi at low rates just to celebrate Eid with family but it’s been the third day and they are stuck on the road. If this situation remains, it is feared that Eid will also pass on the Karakoram Highway.
This is what Abdul Jalil, a resident truck driver of Gilgit, has to say. Abdul Jalil and dozens of other citizens who were going to Gilgit are stuck due to the flood situation in Uchhar Nala, a few kilometers before Dasu city in Kohistan area of ??Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Last year, the bridge built on this canal was swept away by the flood. A temporary bridge was constructed over this drain, but due to recent heavy rains, it was also unusable.
Abdul Jalil says that he stays away from home and family all the time. Eid is the occasion when there is an opportunity to spend some days with home and family. But now there is a flood situation in Uchhar Nala before Dasu. The freighters cannot even leave the truck. It is thanks to the people of Kohistan that they have been organizing Suhoor and Iftar for us for the past several days, otherwise I don’t know what would have happened.’
Not only Abdul Jalil, but Yusuf Imtiaz, who traveled from Rawalpindi to Nagar along with his family, is also among these afflicted individuals and families.
He told BBC that ‘Wednesday evening, it seemed that the road will be fully opened due to lack of rain. In between, the road was open for some time, but due to rain again, the flow of water increased again. The women have been sheltered by Dasu people in their houses and they are giving us iftar and suhoor. We people are living in cars and walking around.’
Maulana Muhammad Tahir, who organizes iftar and suhoor for stranded travelers in Dasu Kohistan, says that he and the youth of the area have been organizing suhoor and iftar for at least 2,500 to three thousand people for the past three years. Women, children, the elderly, the sick are also included.
Maulana Muhammad Tahir says that ‘We will ask all the passengers who intend to go to Gilgit-Baltistan to wait a little. Lest they start their journey and then get stuck on the way.’
However, according to information received from Daso at three o’clock in the morning on Thursday, the traffic on the road had started partially.
The recent series of rains in the last two days of Ramadan has been continuing for the last three days in almost all the northern regions and other parts of Pakistan. According to the Meteorological Department, this series is expected to continue for one to two more days.
This series of rains is not a good news for those going out for tourism on Eid. Administration officials working at various tourist spots and people associated with tourism business have described it as dangerous.
Local people are arranging suhoor and iftar for around 3000 people stranded near Dasu since last day.
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Imtiaz Taj, the spokesperson of Gilgit-Baltistan government, said that at present people who are returning to Gilgit-Baltistan for Eid are facing a lot of difficulties. We are expecting that a proper bridge will be constructed on Uchhar Nala as soon as possible so that traffic can flow on the highway connecting Gilgit-Baltistan to Pakistan throughout the year.’
He said that due to the recent rains, roads were closed due to landslides in some places in Gilgit-Baltistan, which have been opened. At present, there is no main highway blocked in Gilgit-Baltistan, but if some link roads are closed, they will also be opened soon.
Imtiaz Taj said that ‘Gilgit-Baltistan is ready to welcome tourists and preparations are complete to provide them with all the facilities, but before traveling, tourists should decide their journey by looking at the weather and road conditions. Travel in proper and good vehicles.’
General Secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan Hotel Association Kausar Hasan said that ‘At present, foreign tourists come to Gilgit-Baltistan compared to local tourists. This season is the flowering season in Gilgit-Baltistan. In this season, tourists from Japanese, Indonesian, Korean and other countries visit Gilgit-Baltistan.
He said that this year compared to previous years, more foreign tourists came, but they have been suffering from extreme difficulties due to the road closure. There were some tourist flights on Wednesday. Those people will be stuck on the road who were kept in Chilas for some time and then taken to the other side of the very difficult and dangerous road on which tourists have also expressed their displeasure.
Ali Anwar Raja, the tour operator, says that ‘currently we are forced to stop some foreign tourists in Islamabad. These tourists are wasting their time and they are worried. Currently, PIA’s fares for Islamabad to Gilgit and Hunza are more than double that of Islamabad to Karachi. This situation is also alarming.’
Kausar Hussain says that when the road is closed, the tourist season will not be able to start in any area of ??Gilgit-Baltistan. The government and the authorities should find a good and future solution for the road besides keeping the fares of PIA at a reasonable level so that tourists can travel.
Maulana Muhammad Tahir says that ‘the partially open road means that a single vehicle is crossing the Nala with great difficulty. Tourists and travelers are therefore advised to avoid traveling to Gilgit-Baltistan for now.
DSP Saeed Yadwin of Balakot area of ??Mansehra district said that the road from Balakot to Naran was opened a few days ago after which the people of Hotel Indusri in Naran had also returned and were expecting that on the occasion of Eid. But tourists will go to Naran, Kaghan in large numbers. But due to rains for three days, the road has been closed once again due to avalanches falling on the road beyond Kaghan and a little before Naran.
He said that ‘a large number of avalanches have fallen in both of them. Due to which the road is now completely closed beyond Kaghan. Work is being done there with heavy missionaries, but due to more landslides, it is estimated that it may take two to three days to open the road.
Saeed Yadoun said that if tourists want, they can travel to Shogran and Kaghan. But for that too they have to take precautions. Avoid traveling without precautions.’
DSP Balakot said that it has rained again on Wednesday evening while it has snowed in Naran. After which the risk of landslides on the road beyond Balakot has increased. “Even if the road opens up and it rains on or after Eid, the administration will not allow any tourist and traveler to go beyond Kaghan.”
According to Mohammad Zahid, president of Swat Hotel Industries, ‘the road from Bahrain to Kalam is closed. This road has not yet been restored for traffic. Apart from this, the rest of Swat is open to visitors (tourists) and travelers.’
He said that ‘due to inflation this year, it seems that people will go out less for tourism. Hotel fares are also very reasonable in Swat at this time. If guests come to Swat, we will welcome them and provide them with proper facilities.’
Meanwhile, according to Deputy Commissioner Deer Bala’s Facebook page, Patrak to Kumrat road has been opened for traffic.
Qamar Zaman, a resident of Neelam Valley in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and principal of a high secondary school, says that the recent rains have destroyed the roads of Neelam Valley. A large number of local people who wanted to go to their homes on the occasion of Eid could not reach, while some have reached after extreme difficulties.’
He said that landslides have occurred in many places in Neelam Valley in Shadra, Keel, Griz, Sargan, Ratigali, Lawat and Jagran due to snowfall. Main highways and connecting roads are still closed at some places. “The weather usually moderates during this part of the year, but the recent snowfall, which is the most severe weather change, has increased the severity of the cold.”
Qamar Zaman said that ‘the people of Neelam Valley are eye-catching for guests (tourists).’ But he does not think that one should travel with his family in this weather and conditions ‘however with proper safety measures one can see snowfall but it can be dangerous.’
According to tour operator Muhammad Asif, ‘It seems that tourists have limited options for Eid this year. It is a good time for Gilgit-Baltistan, but the situation on the Karakoram Highway from Kohistan is not good. Thus the Gilgit to Hunzawala road also becomes dangerous in rains. If the rains continue on the occasion of Eid, these limited options will also reduce further.’
He said that ‘tourists can head to Murree and Galiyat while hoping that the larger area of ??Swat will also remain open, but it will take time for areas like Bahrain and Kalam to open.’
Muhammad Asif said that unfortunately we have only a few suitable places for tourism whether it is local tourism or international tourism. Otherwise, there are many beautiful areas near Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Hazara Dwistran, Islamabad Rawalpindi where tourists can go but there are no facilities for tourists in these areas.