Pakistan is a majority Muslim state in an area that was once home to the ancient Indus civilization, the ruins of which can be seen in places such as Mohenja-daro, Harappa and Taxila. Part of this area belonged to the Persian Empire and later to the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great. From 1858 to 1947 it was part of the British Raj. The country of Pakistan was created to form a homeland for Indian Muslims at the independence of India in 1947. Originally, it was in two parts; but the eastern wing, now Bangladesh, became independent in 1971. Alternate civilian and military governments in Pakistan have led to political and social instability, with a high risk of terrorism and sectarian violence; but it is now listed as among the ‘Next Eleven’ economies.
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Pakistan has a land area of 770,875 sq km, bordering the Arabian Sea, India to the east, Iran and Afghanistan to the west, and China in the north. India-Pakistan relations have been rocky since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, but both countries are taking small steps to put relations back on track. As of 2014, the population of Pakistan was 196 million people. Pakistan frequently experience earthquakes, occasionally severe especially in north and west.
Much like neighbouring India, Pakistan boasts a dizzying variety of natural and cultural wonders, sensational cuisine, a baffling ability to cram more people on public transport than the laws of physics provide for, and an overwhelming bustle of human life. However, for every similarity, there are more differences.
In 2010 Pakistan welcomed ~907,000 international tourists, however in 2013 that figure dropped to 565,000, a result of security issues and a low tourism profile. The upside of this is that those who do visit practically get Pakistan to themselves. In accordance with Islamic teachings, guests are considered an expression of God’s blessing and are welcomed effusively. Also, with tourism still more or less in its infancy, there are fewer touts, scams and hassles than in many other more established destinations.
Beyond the fast-paced cities, visitors can find tranquility and breathtaking scenery in the north, with the mighty stretches of the Karakorum’s, the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush Ranges, marvel at the mangrove forests in the coastal wetlands, or spot crocodiles at the mouth of the Indus River in the south.
The variety of landscape includes sandy scrublands with their wild cats and panthers, and the desert in the southwest with its rare Asiatic cheetahs. If adventure is your thing, then take part in trekking, mountaineering (there are several mountains over 7000m, including K2), white-water rafting or camel and yak safaris.
Ethical Travel Issues and advice
Mountain trekking – it’s exhilarating, it’s beautiful, it’s challenging. But how many of us could do it without the porters who carry our luggage and equipment? Porters are an essential part of treks. However, they often suffer appalling working conditions.
Porters work in some of the harshest tourism conditions in the world, carrying tourists’ backpacks. Frostbite, altitude sickness and even death can be the cost for the porters carrying trekkers’ equipment in the Himalayas, on the Inca Trail in Peru and at Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Lack of shelter, inadequate food and clothing, and minimal pay are commonly faced problems.
These problems are repeated worldwide, leaving some porters to believe they are simply seen as beasts of burden. In the words of a Peruvian porters’ syndicate: “We suffer humiliation upon humiliation, and are treated as less than human.” A tour operator in Pakistan reported that the way porters are treated amounts to modern slavery.
The majority of UK operators now have policies on porters, paving the way for improved pay and working conditions for hundreds of porters. Look out for the Ethical Trekking logo or use one of our Ethical Tour Operators. Tourism Concern have carried out a very successful campaign on Porters Rights, to learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Porters Rights:
Displacement of Local Peoples & Slum Tourism:
Tourism development has caused many communities to be forcibly displaced. Indigenous groups, people living in informal settlements, or people who lack official title deeds to their lands are particularly vulnerable to displacement or loss of access to lands and waters essential for their livelihoods. This often happens with little or no warning, compensation or alternative provision.
Governments and private companies have forced many tribal peoples from their ancestral lands to make way for national parks and so called ‘eco-tourism’. Fishing communities are removed from their coastal villages and blocked from accessing the sea as hotels are built and beaches are privatised, destroying livelihoods and traditional ways of life. Informal settlements are bulldozed under beautification projects in the lead up to major international sporting events.
In August 2015, it was reported that the Pakistani government is demolishing slums on the outskirts of the capital Islamabad. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed leaving thousands of people homeless. The government wants to use the land to develop commercial properties.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Land displacement & Slum Tourism:
Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.
Taking photos of friendly local people can be a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on ethical photography: https://tourismconcern.wpengine.com/ethical-photography/
Wildlife Watching – Snow leopard:
There are estimated to be around 250-400 snow leopards in Pakistan, across an area of 80,000km2. As in the rest of their range, they are threatened by retaliatory killing due to livestock depredation, hunting for the cats’ valuable pelt and for traditional Chinese medicine, and depletion of the main prey (ibex and marmot).
Nisar Malik, a Pakistani journalist along with cameraman Mark Smith, spent 18 months following this most enigmatic of animals and creating a film: Snow Leopard of Pakistan – Beyond the Myth. During filming, they gained valuable insights into the day to day life of the snow leopards. Set in the wilds of the Hindu Kush, their film profiles a much misunderstood part of the world, going beyond the myth to tell the snow leopard’s real story.
See more at Right Tourism; http://right-tourism.com/issues/wildlife-watching/#sthash.OP2apv5R.dpbs
Tourists use more water than the ordinary consumer. Indeed, the water ‘footprint’ of the Western world, as in our carbon footprint, is very high. There are already serious water shortages worldwide and a prediction of ‘water wars’.
The United Nations has claimed that ‘The average tourist uses as much water in 24 hours as a third world villager would use to produce rice for 100 days.’ Tourists need unlimited supplies of water – they are used to it at home and desire copious amounts on holiday: for drinking, baths and showers, swimming pools, overflowing fountains and green manicured lawns.
But water, in developing countries, is often a precious commodity. More than 2 billion people lack access to clean water and sanitation, and 80 per cent of all deaths in the developing world are water related. Put a hotel near a local community and the pressure on the water supply is acute.
Tourism Concern has extensively campaigned on water equity and have published reports & articles on the topic. To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles:
Campers, hikers, and climbers should all follow a “Leave No Trace” approach when exploring the great outdoors. In many popular trekking locations around the world, a lack of this ethic has resulted in highlands and peaks being littered with garbage. The situation has become so bad in neighbouring Nepal, The Nepalese government passed new rules requiring climbers to carry 17.6 pounds (8kg) of trash off the mountain (in addition to their own garbage) before they are allowed to leave. Here are some suggestions for keeping the trekking regions beautiful for everyone to enjoy:
- Carry out all your rubbish or dispose of your trash responsibly. Don’t overlook easily forgotten items, such as foil, cigarette butts and plastic wrappers. Take into account how long items take to degrade. For example, aluminium cans take 80 to 100 years and plastic bottles take up to 450 years. Besides, while degrading harmful chemicals end up in the ground water.
- Collect rubbish where you see it on walking trails. If you cannot carry it out of the area, take the litter to a local rubbish collection depot or incineration centre.
- When buying things from shops, do not accept plastic bags.
- Never bury your rubbish. Digging disturbs soil and ground cover and encourages erosion, and buried rubbish may be dug up by animals, which may be injured or poisoned by it.
- Minimize waste by taking minimal packaging and no more food than you will need. Take reusable containers or stuff sacks.
- Take your used batteries home to your country.
- Where there is a toilet, please use it. Where there is none, bury your waste. Dig a small hole 15cm (6in) deep and at least 100m (320ft) from any watercourse. Cover the waste with soil and a rock. In snow, dig down to the soil. Ensure that these guidelines are also applied to portable toilet tents.
- Please encourage your porters to use toilet facilities as well.