Funding, training requested for the promotion of mountaineering

Islamabad: Speaking at a webinar on the “mountaineering challenges Pakistan faces,” experts urged the government to urgently establish a professional mountaineering school and Pakistan Alpine Club (ACP ) strong with the right professionals on board.

Experts also praised the Pakistani military for carrying out the rescue operations quite effectively when needed. They pointed out that obtaining a mountaineering permit is taking too long despite the Prime Minister’s instruction to reduce processing time. It takes too long to get a visa for foreign tourists although the federal government has announced a lenient visa policy.

The webinar was hosted by the Development Communications Network (Devcom-Pakistan) on Saturday.

The expert group included well-known mountaineer Nazir Sabir, another well-known mountaineer Col (r) Abdul Jabbar Bhatti, founder and chairman of the Baltistan Tour Operators Association (BATO) Muhammad Iqbal, secretary of the Pakistan Alpine Club Karrar Haideri, mountaineering trainer Dr Shabbir Naqvi, president of Tahir Imran Khan adventure club, founder and director of Pakistan Mountain Festival and executive director of Devcom-Pakistan Munir Ahmed, event manager Samreen Akhtar and Shaaref Munir, student at Ozyegin University in hotel and tourism management.

Nazir Sabir said all stakeholders must sit down together to develop an integrated policy for mountaineering and trekking. Mountaineering should be a national phenomenon like cricket. But unfortunately, we lack sponsorship and state recognition and this is also the case for corporate sponsorship.

In fact, the Pakistan Alpine Club does not have the capacity to manage the national mountaineering framework and it needs to be reformed. Colonel (r) Abdul Jabbar Bhatti said mountaineering is an adventure sport based on your own resources, skills and risks. Mountaineers and High Altitude Porters (HAPs) have no insurance scheme in Pakistan, no proper training, and no sponsorship. The corporate sector will not come to support this sport until it is not sufficiently integrated. We do not have a structured system for mountaineering and trekking. We need to put “the right people in the right jobs” if we’re interested in doing what is needed, and that won’t happen sooner even if we start today.

Devcom-Pakistan Executive Director Munir Ahmed said rights professionals and a strong cadre are very essential for mountaineering integration. The government and state institutions must have liberal and lenient policies to attract foreign climbers and hikers. We will also have an adequate monitoring and control system to reduce pollution at high altitudes.

ACP Secretary Karrar Haideri said the Alpine Club has received a lot of criticism but has not received funding for at least the past three years, although we are trying to survive. All corporate officers perform their duties without any remuneration. We have raised issues with the government many times, but we are still waiting for patronage and support. The Pakistani Army recently hosted a stakeholder meeting to develop an overview of the framework for promoting mountaineering in Pakistan. The National Tourism Coordination Council (NTCB) is also looking into it.

Dr Shabbir Naqvi said that we lack funding and training for mountaineering in general because the ACP could not deliver the desired outcome as envisioned in their mandate. We have not yet organized and recognized mountaineering as a sport. Nepal offers Bachelor and Master level education in mountaineering while we do not have a vocational school. Tahir Imran Khan said that we need to have professionalism to attract commercialism as well as a thorough professional attitude from the organizations involved. Mountain marketing is very important which is not possible without the collaboration of all stakeholders.