Published On: Wed, Jul 10th, 2013

Attack on Foreign Tourists: Ploy To Increase Pakistan Woes

Nanga-ParbatBy Iftikhar Hussian Jazib

The recent ruthless killing of nine foreign tourists at the base camp of the world’s ninth tallest mountain of Nanga Parbat in Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan will have far reaching strategic implications for Pakistan. TTP took great pains to execute this nefarious design in an area which was 18 hours away from accessible road link. This unprecedented attack was planned very tactfully on the behest of masters of Hakeemullah from various hostile Intelligence Agencies to multiply Pakistan’s troubles in War against Terrorism.

This brutal attack has shattered the hopes of dialogue with TTP which has claimed responsibility for the killings of foreign tourists. The attack also embarrassed the newly elected government that made “talks with TTP” a cornerstone of its domestic security policy, advocating a softer approach that opposed previous policy. But the Fairy Meadows incident has received immense condemnation across the nation which the newly elected government cannot afford to ignore. In these circumstances, the government is unlikely to take any initiative to bring the terrorists to the table.

A deep analysis of situation around this attack clearly indicates that it was planned internationally to sabotage Pakistan’s approach of counter terrorism through dialogue. The TTP’s spokesman told journalists that this attack was carried out to avenge the killing of Waliur Rehman, who was killed through a drone attack. Many analysts are suggesting that Waliur Rehman was intentionally made a target to silence the moderate voices in the TTP. With his assassination, chances of the truce between TTP and Pakistani government have also been overshadowed.

Interestingly, citing the justification for this attack, TTP’s spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told journalists that foreigners were targeted to convey message to the world against drone attacks. But the victims belonged to Pakistan’s friendly countries including China which supported the country’s stance against drone attacks on all the international forums. Even Russians, on many occasions, have condemned the brutal use of kinetic actions through drones. Such an action at this stage clearly indicates that TTP in fact was sponsored by hostile agencies to undertake this operation.

This attack can have grave consequences for Pakistan with regard to various mega development projects in the area. Pakistan is developing     Diamer-Bhasha Dam, and expansion / up-gradation of Karakoram Highway (KKH) is also underway near the sight of the attack. These projects are running with the technical and financial assistance of international donor agencies, while many foreign experts and engineers are working in the area. The allocation of funds for these projects will become difficult in the wake of this attack and foreigners can leave Pakistan citing security reasons. It is pertinent to mention here that India is building dams to divert and store water in its part of Held Kashmir for possible economic strangulation of Pakistan. This aspect again indicates that the attack was handiwork of RAW and its collaborating hostile agencies.

The government of Gilgit-Baltistan and tourist industry of Pakistan will be the most immediate and prime victim of this attack. Gilgit-Baltistan is heavily dependent on revenue generated through mountain expeditions and tourism, while this attack can increase financial difficulties of its already funds lacking provincial government. This can have destabilizing effects on the area and security situation may further deteriorate.

According to Ghulam Nabi, a representative of the Pakistan Tour Operators’ Association, around 15 to 20 thousand tourists including mountaineers come to Pakistan each year during the summer season, while each one of them spends over five to six thousand dollars. In his view, the attack could discourage thousands of international tourists from visiting Pakistan and the loss to Pakistan will be in billions of rupees.

According to tourist operators, many foreigners left the area immediately after the attack while the others who were expected to come were cancelling their visits continuously. They fear that this summer season tourist industry will suffer heavy losses. About 2,50,000 to 3,00000 people depend on influx of tourists for their livelihood.  The attack could render them unemployed as it is going to seriously hurt business for tour guides, hotel owner, transporters and small businesses linked to the tourist industry in the area.

The highly planned attack on tourists will further distort the international image of Pakistan which is already struggling with an image problem abroad. In fact, the terrorists have staged a series of attack recently which received massive media coverage of home and abroad alike. The LeJ’s attack to kill female students in Quetta inclusively and burning of Ziarat residency by BLA had big psychological impacts. These attacks point to a well-planned strategy of hostile agencies to further intensify the terrorist threats to Pakistan.

In the wake of these developments, we must remain mindful of our deceitful allies in war against terrorism. At the same time, we need to take all necessary measures to mitigate terrorist threat in the country. We can only restore the confidence of foreign tourists by punishing the perpetrators of this attack. This will be obviously a big challenge for our law enforcing agencies and other concerned authorities.

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