By Shabbir Mir
GILGIT: Traffic between Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad via Babusar Pass will resume in a few days since large quantities of snow that was obstructing traffic earlier has been cleared, a senior government official told The Express Tribune on Monday.
Babusar Road, which is 100-kilometres shorter than Karakoram Highway (KKH), connects G-B to Mansehra through Naran and Kaghan, however heavy snowfall at the top does not allow free flow of traffic for about nine months every year.
Speaking to The Express Tribune on Monday, Diamer Deputy Commissioner Usman Ahmad said, “The snow has been removed from KKH to the top and work will continue for a couple of days till the area is clear.”
According to locals in Chilas, snow was removed using bulldozers which worked for over three weeks, removing tonnes of snowfall.
Given the number of tourists in G-B increased and crossed 0.5 million in 2015, the opening of the scenic Babusar Road is expected to increase the inflow of tourists this year.
Saraj Khan, an hotelier in Gilgit, said last year hotels in Hunza, Astore and Gilgit had reached full capacity due to a record flow of tourists. He said if Babusar Road was opened on time, the situation will not be very different from last year.
The tour operators and other businessmen in G-B expect the influx of tourists will break all previous records since Shandur festival is also being held at the world’s highest playground in the region in mid-July.
Shahab Khan, a hotel owner, told The Express Tribune his hotel was brimming with people before Ramazan but then the numbers decreased as people fast and travel less in the sacred month. “I hope the numbers shoot up again once Ramzan ends and traffic via Babusar Pass resumes,” he added.
G-B Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman recently told the media that his government was aspiring to have one million tourists in the region this year.
He said if the law and order situation in G-B improved, his government’s efforts to introduce G-B to the outside world will not be a far-fetched dream any longer. Rehman also said the G-B police has been trained to deal with tourists – they will wear traditional dresses in certain places as a goodwill gesture towards visitors.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2016.