Islamabad : Speaking at a webinar on ‘mountaineering challenges confronting Pakistan,’ the experts urged the government to urgently establish a professional mountaineering school and a strong Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) having right professionals on board.
The experts also appreciated the Pakistan army for conducting the rescue operations quite efficiently when needed. They highlighted that getting a mountaineering permit takes too long despite the Prime Minister’s instruction to reduce the processing time. It takes too much time to get a visa for the foreign tourists though the federal government has announced a lenient visa policy. The webinar was organised by the Development Communications Network (Devcom-Pakistan) on Saturday. The panel of experts included well-known mountaineer Nazir Sabir, another well-known mountaineer Col (r) Abdul Jabbar Bhatti, founder and chairman Baltistan Association of Tour Operators (BATO) Muhammad Iqbal, Secretary Alpine Club of Pakistan Karrar Haideri, mountaineering trainer Dr. Shabbir Naqvi, president Adventure Club Tahir Imran Khan, Pakistan Mountain Festival founder and director and Devcom-Pakistan Executive Director Munir Ahmed, event manager Samreen Akhtar, and Ozyegin University student of Hospitality and Tourism Management Shaaref Munir. Nazir Sabir said all stakeholders need to sit together to develop an integrated policy for mountaineering and trekking. Mountaineering should be a national phenomenon like cricket. But unfortunately we lack state patronage and recognition and so is the case of corporate sponsorships.
In fact, the Alpine Club Pakistan has no capacity to handle the national framework of mountaineering and it needs to be reformed. Col (r) Abdul Jabbar Bhatti said mountaineering is an adventure sport that is based on your own resources, skills and risk. Mountaineers and High Altitude Porters (HAPs) have no insurance schemes in Pakistan, no proper training and no sponsorships. Corporate sector will not come up to support this sport until it is not adequately mainstreamed. We have no structured system for mountaineering and trekking. We need to put ‘right persons on the right jobs’ if interested to do the needful, and it will not happen sooner even if we start today. Devcom-Pakistan Executive Director Munir Ahmed said rights professionals and a vigorous framework is very essential for mainstreaming of mountaineering. Government and the state institutions need to have some liberal and lenient policies to attract foreign mountaineers and trekkers. We shall also have an adequate monitoring and checking system to reduce high altitude pollution.
Secretary ACP Karrar Haideri said the Alpine Club received a lot of criticism but not funding at least for the last three years even though we are trying to survive. All officer bearers perform their duties without any remunerations. We have taken up issues with the government several times but are still waiting for the patronage and support. The Pakistan army has had a meeting of stakeholders recently to develop an outline of the framework to promote mountaineering in Pakistan. The National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB) is also focusing on it.
Dr. Shabbir Naqvi said we lack funding and training for mountaineering in general because the ACP could not deliver the desired outcome as envisaged in their mandate. We have yet to organize and recognize mountaineering as a sport. Nepal offers Bachelor and Masters level education in mountaineering while we have no professional training school. Tahir Imran Khan said we need to have professionalism to attract commercialism along with a thorough professional attitude of the relevant organizations. Marketing of the mountains is very important that is not possible without collaboration of all stakeholders.