Tag Archives: Tourism

Russia takes further steps toward easing its visa restrictions for tourists

Visa-free entry will be allowed via 11 Russian airports.

The Russian government may soon waive the visa requirement for foreign tourists arriving in Russia by train who intend to stay in the country 72 hours or less. A bill proposing such an initiative has been submitted to the Russian State Duma. The initiative is backed by several Russian government agencies, including the Ministry of Transportation, the Economic Development Ministry, the Regional Development Ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Federal Migration Service and the Federal Tourism Agency.

Read more » rbth.ru
http://rbth.ru/society/2014/02/05/russia_could_ease_visa_restrictions_for_tourists_33873.html

Kashmir: A troubled paradise

– As a child growing up after India’s partition, Kashmir to me was always a part of India. Only in middle school did I begin to realize that it was considered “disputed territory” by much of the world, the sentiment being especially fierce in neighboring Pakistan. The map of India that we studied in school showed Indian Kashmir as a larger territory than what was actually under Indian control. Parts of it in the north and the west were in reality, within China and Pakistan. The scenic northernmost state, a popular destination for summer tourism and the backdrop of many a puerile romantic song & dance number of made-in-Bombay movies, was not a very urgent topic of discussion for the general Indian public. Kashmir for most Indians, evoked benign, pretty images of apple, apricot and walnut orchards, chinar trees, shimmering lakes, snow capped mountains, houseboats, fine pashmina shawls, lacquered papier mache ornaments and the valley’s light skinned aloof inhabitants.

Later in my teen years I began to understand that Kashmir was not the placid paradise we had imagined as children. Its politics were complicated and its population sharply divided on the state’s rightful status – part of India, part of Pakistan or a wholly independent/ autonomous entity. The difference of opinion fell across religious lines. Kashmiri Hindus wished to remain with India and the majority Muslim population of the state did not. Even then, things were mostly quiet and free of turmoil. There were quite a few Kashmiri students in my school. Many had ancestral homes and relatives in Kashmir and they visited there regularly during summer breaks. Those friends were all Hindus. Come to think of it, I did not know a single Kashmiri Muslim on a personal level until I was in college. There were Muslim traders and merchants who came down to major Indian cities bearing expensive and much coveted Kashmiri merchandise such as saffron, dried fruit, nuts and embroidered woollens, but they did not reside in the plains permanently and their children did not attend our schools. The first Kashmiri Muslim I came to know well was Agha Shahid Ali, a graduate student a few years ahead of me in Delhi University who later became a lecturer of English at my college as also a poet of some renown. It was Ali who first revealed to me that most Kashmiri Muslims did not identify themselves as Indians and many felt a greater emotional and cultural allegiance with Pakistan. An equal number wanted an autonomous state with a very loose federation with India for economic reasons. The Indian government spent large sums of money to subsidize the state’s economy and prohibited non-Kashmiris from buying land there while also meddling in local politics. Kashmiris became increasingly suspicious of the central government’s motives and the rift with India widened both politically and culturally.

Despite tensions and uncertainties, Kashmir never experienced the sectarian violence that had racked the eastern and western wings of India around partition time. Even when India and Pakistan fought several wars over their disagreement surrounding the region, Kashmir itself remained relatively free of communal strife for many decades after India’s independence. The uneasy calm ended in the late 1980s and early ’90s when the Kashmir valley became a battle ground for armed insurgents trained in Pakistan and the Indian military forces. The conflict caused a communal rift among long time residents and resulted in a mass exodus (some say expulsion) of Kashmiri Hindus from their homes. Those tensions remain to this day laced with bitterness on both sides.

I had never visited Kashmir when I lived in India. By the time the political upheaval unfolded in the 1990s, I had already left and had been living abroad for a decade. Kashmir’s troubles and deteriorating political situation were not something I paid close attention to until the Kargil War erupted in 1999. It became clear then that Kashmir had become an intractable problem for India. I am still not sure how I feel about the situation. What can India gain by holding on to a territory whose residents do not want to be a part of India? Can India protect regions like Ladakh and Jammu in the vicinity which identify firmly with the rest of India? What would happen if India does decide to vacate the valley and stops spending money to placate the population and maintain the large presence of its armed forces? Would Kashmir valley remain “independent” or will some other country like China or Pakistan march in and establish control even closer to other Indian states? How does one balance the interests of Kashmiris and the rest of India? Is peace ever possible when the citizenry perceives the government as an “occupying force?” Most confusing of all, will Kashmiri Hindus be permitted go back to the homes they abandoned out of fear and panic? And even if it was possible, would they ever want to return to a place that had cut all ties to India? ….

Read more → Accidental Blogger

Pakistan can no longer be ruled from Islamabad

National Integration – Masood Sharif Khan Khattak

Communication infrastructure, domestic tourism, undiluted provincial autonomy and bonding through the workplace play a vital role in the integration of a nation. Pakistan’s national integration has suffered immensely because these factors have never been crucially important to our leadership. Pakistan’s communication infrastructure is primitive, domestic tourism is non-existent, provincial autonomy only receives lip-service and bonding through the workplace is totally missing except in the armed forces. Uniform development across the country over the past sixty years would have solidly integrated the Pakistani nation but that did not happen due to absolute incompetence, poor leadership and corruption at all levels. The price Pakistan is paying for its neglect is in the shape of an internally disjointed nation forced to suffer the present-day indignities in the shape of terrorism and insurgency.

The political and military establishment must now understand that the military potential of any country is multiplied manifolds when it is backed by a nation that is well-integrated. An integrated nation can cover up for military shortfalls but military strength cannot cover up for the shortfalls of a nation that lacks integration and cohesion. The Soviet Union’s break-up in 1991 is an example that amply illustrates this aspect. Pakistan must, therefore, accord top priority to uniform development throughout the country in order to have a nation that can back its enviable military potential in a solid manner; if not, then all will be lost.

Nawaz Sharif deserves the credit for initiating the modern communication infrastructure of Pakistan that is so essential for the integration of a nation that lives in a country as big as Pakistan. The launching of the Lahore-Islamabad motorway by Nawaz Sharif in the early 90s was a huge step in the right direction. If the process had been initiated decades ago Pakistan today would have been a very cohesively integrated nation. …

Read more : PKcoluminist.com

The destruction of Manchar & Haleji Lakes- It is a standard tragedy of Sindh

by Azhar Ali Shah

It seems that main reason behind the destruction of Manchar, Haleji and other lakes of Sindh is just negligence and improper planning of government coupled with selfish interests of local zamindars/feudals who want their land and fish farms to be irrigated at the cost of the supply of drinking water to the local people and preserving public tourist points!. Its all shame for the related ministries, departments, offices and peoples as well.

Sindh: Gorakh Hill Station

Sindh’s cold mountain resort in cold storage

Gorakh Hill Station: The one place Karachi can escape to in the summers has been ignored despite its fantastic tourism potential

By Razzak Abro

JOHI: As Karachi sweltered in the summer’s heat, it was a cool night at Gorakh Hill in district Dadu, which is otherwise known for its cooking 40-degree plus temperatures.

It was the weekend and a group of people, including journalists, had gathered at the hill station for a festival organized by ActionAid and local NGO Village Shadabad Welfare Organization. Those who knew about Gorakh had brought warm clothes, especially the people from the surrounding areas, who even brought blankets for the night’s stay at the proposed summer resort located at the Khirthar mountains at a height of 5,866 feet.

But some of the guests from Karachi, Hyderabad and other parts of the province were caught by surprise. “I did not expect such cold weather here during the hot summer,” exclaimed Asghar Azad, a journalist from Karachi. He was one of the 100-strong group a majority of which were visiting the site for the first time. Over two hundred local people turned up as well. The hosts had arranged 4-wheel jeeps to the hilltop but the old ones spluttered out and it was only the locals who managed to complete the trek on motorcycle. An elderly gentleman in his 60s made it before us city folks. According to guests Muhammad Nawaz and Nabi Bux they had to drag the bikes up at some points, much to their misery.

PPI reported that hardly 15 km of a narrow strip, with sharp and steep turnings, has so far been built contrary to the claims of the previous government that 53km of road had been completed.

PPI reported that WAPDA has completed its work of erecting poles, installing cables from the foothills to the top where a transformer could also be seen but it needs to be activated. Moreover, the Gorakh Hill Development Authority (GHDA) has laid a water supply line and the boosting stations are under-construction in addition to a single-room police check post at Khawal pass, 15km below Gorakh peak.

A two-room rest house, built during late Abdullah Shah’s government, was in a dilapidated condition, and the only addition made by previous coalition government was a two-room rest house made from fiber at another peak.

According to the revised PC-I, approved on February 24, 2003, the cost of Gorakh Hill Station project was Rs 198.269 million including the construction of roads, bridges and a water supply scheme. The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) had approved the project and the Sindh Government had started the work on the 53km road strip from Wahi Pandhi, a small town at the foothills to Gorakh peak. Later, the federal government agreed to share 30 percent of the cost of the entire project.

The strip would have 10 viewpoints and would have a 10-bed emergency hospital, waterfalls, a filter plant, security posts, horse and camel riding tracks, cable cars and chair lifts.

The then prime minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali had also visited Wahi Pandhi road and had directed the Sindh government to initiate an inquiry into the matter, which still was pending.

The topography of Gorakh peak is 1,340 acres in Sindh and 1,000 acres in Balochistan. The weather in summer is very pleasant, with moderate temperatures during the day, dropping to slightly chilly at night. In winter, however, the temperature goes down to almost -8 to -12 degrees centigrade. Being the highest peak in a region, the hill offers a beautiful view of a valley from the top. The area is surrounded by arid mountains with small green pastures at certain points. During the rainy season, one can see various streams of water flowing throughout the area.

Due to bad road conditions, the 53km distance takes about 5 hours. The track is not dangerous but since it has a few sharp turns at some places, visitors get trapped at certain turns where work has not been carried.

There is no communication system in case any tourist is trapped there. No landline or mobile phone works beyond Wahi Pandhi. But somebody told PPI that the V-PTCL Wireless Phone works there.

Courtesy – Daily Times – Site Edition, Thursday, May 29, 2008