By Fazal Amin Beg
In this short note, I’ve narrated some important features of the second part of the travel from Komila to Islamabad in January 2022.The first part of the video and description was published on January 12, 2022 (focused on Gilgit to Komila).It talks about the second day of the travel that began in the morning during a heavy rain in Kohistan valley.How did we each at the blocakge and crossed it on foot then changed to other part of the blocakge. It also critically analyzes some facets of the travel on the way in addition to taking food and rest at Besham Continental Hotel , taking an interview of two of the staff members, encountering a human blocakge and moving ahead towards Thakot Bridge and ascending on a branch of the Motorway , getting interview of the driver of the car and reaching Islambad in the evening. Well, from here onward, let’s join the travel story as follows.
Along with the female, my daughters and Dr. Shayistan Karim, the night was spent in a room of local hotel in Kommila with a high concern for the next day.We got up in the morning and I tried to contact Didar Ali on his cell number but it was switched-off. Well, what could be done then? We needed to take breakfast sooner and, get updates on the road blockage and move ahead in our caravan.By then, my children told that it was raining fastly. Well, what a pity Anyway, no worry, to console them to travel peacefully at least from the other side of the blockage onward.
It was 9:00 a.m. and with a further high concern, I was restless. The Karakoram Highway will block at many other places, too. I decided that we should leave at any cost for Besham, two hours car drive from Komila But what should we do? The driver was not in the loop and we didn’t know which room he and his friends had.
Well, I then tried next and got connected with Didar Ali, luckily, he had got up and the mobile set was switched on. I asked him to have our breakfast and then will leave towards the blockage between Komila and Pattan. He said it was not yet opened. I told him, no matter if the road is blocked yet, we should cross it on foot, change the car from the other part of the blocakge and reach Besham at any cost and from there onward, was easy to manage and hire a car for and reach islamabad at night.
In the meanwhile, I asked my daughters and Dr. Shayista Karim to view the natural beauty of Kohistan valley through the room window, take the pictures and a video clip. They enjoyed the scenic view for a while, got some pictures and a video clip. Well, after taking the tasteless breakfast (tea and paratta), we left the hotel.
It was raining heavily.Well, when gripped with multiple levels of difficulties and challenges including myself as a visually disabled, travelling with my daughters and a young female docctor for a long journey, stuck in a conventionally promoted as unsafe for vulnerable segments of the society and many more. However, we were confident due to the bold and honest driver along with his other friendly drivers were so careful from all angles about all their passengers.
Although, the fear and phobia in travelling in Kohistan is significanly valid, especially in many individuals or group level cases, I must say that good and bad people are in all societies. For example, my own Hunza valley is so much famous for quite safe journey in cultural context any time but it never ever means the entire population is composed of angels and there is no bad people. Being humans, we must therefore accept our weaknesses everywhere in all societies. Yes, there is no denial that we can find various types of extremism (religious, linguistic, political and so on) and Kohistan plus Gilgit has been notoriously and externally utilized for religious politics and different types of exploitation. But persons like me travelling on the KKH have never come across any mishap and thanks God, this travel was so safe with the help of Didar Ali Shah (the driver from Yasin valley) once we started from Gilgit.
It took almost half an hour’s drive on the KKH from Komila to reach at the blockage area. When such types of difficulties and challenges emerge or revolve around, the opportunity of rmembering God, the Almighty, then becomes certain. For this much time during driving, we prayed and medidated honestly in the car. When we reached on the spot, there was a long queue of vehicles of various sizes, cars, busses, mini-busses,truckes and the like. I asked Didar Ali to move ahead and park the car among the front level. He was hesitant due to the police, but I insisted and along with other cars, he moved slowly ahead. The road police returned them to be in the queue and when he asked our driver I interviened and asked him and clarified the situation for being female travellers with a visually disabled person. I asked him to be careful and sensitive enough in such respects , at least, as per laws of the country. He was so kind and allowed us to remain among the few front cars.We waited there for lessr than half an hour and the road blocakge got opened.We were asked to cross the blockage on foot , otherwise teh car may stuck in the middle. I was asked to remain in the car during crossing. I said my legs are quite well and can walk. There was no disability in this regard. But the reality was so how could I leave my small children and the female doctor alone in the face of the blockage.
Interestingly, the blocakge was almost equal to nothing as we crossed it on foot hardly in maximum two minutes time at 11:00 a.m on January 7, 2022. Even the bulldozer of Frontier Works Organization (FWO) was not there on the spot.Well, when I was going to enter in the blockage, someone from the travellers (later I confirmed from him that he was Farooq from astor valley) caught my left hand;while I was supposed to take my daughters with me on both sides of my hands as they better know my situation. Second, I could then be sure we were together.
However, one of my daughters came towards my right and I thought it was my 12 years old daughter Surush, I thus caught her hand and rushed towards the blocakge. Interestingly, it was my elder one , Fazila Roshan Beg who was resisting and said Surush is behind to be accompanied. Thanks my sweet Fazila for being so caring and compassionate towards her sister. Nonetheless, I was sure about my younger daughter possessing series of strenths, boldness and having leadership quality to cross it. Wasn’t it so? She has made a video of us when we moved ahead. So bravo my beloved Surush. She has looked towards the sliding scree and also downwards then has taken the name of God has then entered in the blocakge as can be evidence in the video of almost a minute clip.Surush thus followed us immediately and was with us.
Finally, we crossed the blocakge and our car was already wating for us.Thanks to Mr. Farooq of Forest Department of Gilgit-Baltistan for his helping hand to me. We started our travel with a joy after series of challenges before us.
Moving ahead, in almost one hour’s drive, a bulldozer of FWO crossed us going towards the blocakge. Just imagine how dishonest, insensitive, insensible and irresponsible workers are deployed on the route for its maintenance and opening of the blockage. Isn’t it a shame and a big slap on theri face? Or may be there have been some other genuine reasons or excuses, too.The concerned FWO workers have specifically this important and unpredictable task, which they have contracted to ensure maintenance and repair of the so-called KKH. Those who are tourists (domestic or international) or adventurists, their travel multiplies manifold. But the local population of Gilgit-Baltistan and Kohistan suffer brutally and unbearably in terms of all kind of emergencies such as medical issues in addition to suspension of food and fuel supply, employment and students mobility issues, business challenges, and many more.
Well, we finally reached Besham and stopped for lunch and to get relaxed . We had our lunch in Besham Continental Hotel, where the staff members including Qadir Parwana , Didar Khan and Nadir Shah of Ghulkin Hunza were wating for us.Meeting them, we had a sigh and rested here for more than an hour. They offered us very tasteful lunch . Thanks to them, indeed.I then conducted a short discussion with them for the EaglesWorld channel and also gave some coverage to the hotel. It is one of the renowned hotels of Besham having dozens of nice rooms and a big confernce room.
The rain was continuing and we started our travel for Islamabad. After a drive of five or ten minutes, the car stopped due to someone’s corpse and there were lots of people on the KKH. It was a pity that the highway was blocked for the purpose of offering the prayers. We do have our sincere share in their misery as humans but the leaders and law enforcement agencies sounded away to manage the situation. After fifteen minutes or so, the highway got opened and we proceeded ahead.
We arrived at the Thakot Bridge of the KKH. One of the security officials stopped us to check who we were. I told him that we were from Hunza and thus we crossed the bridge and Thakot’s bumpy bazaar.I was happy to know that a branch of the Motorway (Subway) has reached near Thakot and it has significantly reduced the time in contrast with the earlier drive through the Bazaars of Batagram, Chattarplain pass, Shinkiari and Buttal, and particuarly exhaustively passing through the crowdy bazaars of Mansehra and Abbotabad. At present, it was so great to note that it takes maximum four hours drive from Besham to Islamabad. We crossed through three Toll Plazas and ascended on the Peshawar Motorway. In the middle, for ten minutes or so, I conducted an interview of Didar Ali Shah before we reached our final destination.
In the evening, by 6:30 p.m, we reached Islamabad and the rain was continuing. My family members were surprised to see us as I had not informed them about our travel so they should not be made concerned for the whole day or night of the travel in the rainy days. Here our challenging and full of travel lessons and adventures from Gilgit to Islamabad ends. Hope the readers would enjoy this short write-up of our travelogue.
In conclusion, I’d like to vociferously hold that the travel on the Karakoram Highway is though adventurous and source of enjoyment for a significant number of domestic and international tourists, for the ever and marginalized local population of Gilgit-Baltistan and Kohistan, the road blockages and devastated condition is worse than continuous disaster. I however wish, at least, the Prime Minister and the President of Pakistan, various types of Fedderal and Provincial Ministers and Bureaucrats, the Generals of the Pakistan Army , the highest ranked officers of the National Highway Authority (NHA) and others related travel on the Karakoram Highway from Islamabad to Gilgit as common travllers in the public transports. They must then observe to what extent they can enjoy their trips? Or would they stop terming the KKH as something fabulous or the Eighth Wonder of the World?
First and foremost, my deepest gratitude to God, the Almighty, for blessing us with a safe journey and easing our travel in different ways from Islamabad to Gilgit.
I’m grateful to Riaz Habib for his kind facilitation in managing the car for our ambitious travel.Similarly, we are so much thankful to Didar Ali Shah for his safe driving, all the care he extended towards us on the way from Gilgit to Islamabad. It stood to be unforgetable, indeed.
I am thankful to the staff of Besham Continental Hotel, especially Qadir Parwana, DidarAli and Nadir Shah of Ghulkin Hunza, for extending their hospitality towards us Thanks also to the drivers of Ghizer district (friends of our car driver and the staff members of the local hotel in Komila for providing us a niche in a situation where it was not possible to have so in the face of a crowd of people stuck there due to the road blocakge. It was good to get a at least a room in the chillly month of January.
Meeting Dr. Shayista Karim as a co-traveller from Gilgit to Islamabad was a coincidence and it was so great, indeed. She happened to be a classmate of my late niece Faiza Ali in the Aga Khan Higher Secondary School, Karimabad. Thanks to her for the company as a family member .
Finally, I am especially grateful to both of my beloved daughters, Fazila Roshan Beg and Surush Ayman Beg, for their fearless and adventurous travel and facilitation.I’m particularly thankful to my brave, judicious and outstanding daughter Surush (lesser than her teenage) for taking keen interest as ever and remaining so attentive and consistent to make the video on the worst condition of the Karakoram Highway (KKH).It’s marvellous and unforgetable, indeed. May God bless both of my daughters with best of health, with a highest level of wealth of knowledge and wisdom, with the great boon of championing the human and universal rights .