Anger in Gilgit-Baltistan as Pakistan government leases 44 tourist sites to Army subsidiary
Social media was flooded with netizens criticising the move as tourism is the bread and butter of the locals

at 12:41 am
Pic of Gilgit-Baltistan

Islamabad, May 17: Though Pakistan has managed to momentarily placate the violent tensions in PoK, similar resentment against the federal government is brewing in the Gilgit-Baltistan region over the handing of 44 prime tourism sites to a new company linked to the all-powerful army establishment.

The 44 tourism sites were leased to a new company called Green Tourism Limited, which has caused anger among the locals.

Soon after making public the list of tourism sites, including guest houses and motels which were being leased out to the company following an agreement signed with the GB government, social media was flooded with netizens criticising the move as tourism is the bread and butter of the locals, and leasing out tourism to companies would potentially deprive them of work.

The 44 tourism sites leased out in Gilgit-Baltistan, include seven Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) guest houses, 20 PWD motels, and 17 Forest Department sites, which have been leased out to the company for 30 years.

While the Pakistan government has tried to convince the people that the move will facilitate local and foreign investment in the tourism industry, their talks have been unsuccessful as locals fear that this will lead to permanent handing over of the important sites to the private firm or Army.

Leaders of Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM), a religious-political party, and some other political and civil society representatives, have announced strong opposition to the move.

The head of MWM Gilgit Baltistan, Agha Ali Rizvi, has expressed concerns over the acquisition of tourist spots and public lands in Gilgit-Baltistan by the federal government, which he termed unlawful and unconstitutional.

In a detailed statement, Rizvi highlighted the plight of the region, emphasizing that Gilgit-Baltistan does not belong to any individual or authority; it belongs to its people, who are fiercely dedicated to safeguarding their lands.

He further addressed the issue of deforestation and government’s negligence in maintaining the area, calling for more transparency by authorities instead of holding private meetings in dark rooms when formulating new programmes.

So far, the government-run tourism infrastructure in PoK and Gilgit Baltistan is in shambles, with assets worth over PKR 10 billion remaining non-operational since 2019. The annual liabilities for pay and allowances alone amount to PKR 1 billion, highlighting the inefficiencies in the current system, a report said.

In light of the constant deterioration in Pakistan’s tourism industry, its Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) urged the government to establish a new entity, Green Tourism Limited, which would be fully government-owned and tasked with the development of tourism in Pakistan.