The Facebook group The Karakarom Club is perhaps the biggest online platform regarding tourism, trekking, and travelling in Pakistan - at least up north. The platform is dedicated to enhancing and promoting a positive image of the country and bolstering tourism in Pakistan for locals and especially for foreigners. The reasons which made me write about the group include their effort to promote the beauty of our country with almost 28,000 members, and secondly their highlighting of the issues of waste, paint and wall chalking on those stunning sculptures of nature. The mountains are the places to be when one can be close to oneself, to enjoy, to trace peace in those surroundings. But they are targets of various violations of ours, and these need to be addressed – The Karakarom Club is doing its share in this regard.

While talking to The Nation, one of the founders of the page, Faizan Munir, shared the purpose behind making this page. “It is actually rooted in Indo-Pak traditional rivalry,” Faizan said. “There is a group by the name of Himalayan Club, run by Indians; the club itself was established before Partition, and the group is a platform for sharing photographs, information, experiences of all the mountain ranges including Himalaya, Hindu Kush, and Karakoram,” he recalled.

Karakoram Highway

Naran

“Me and my friends were the first Pakistanis to share the beauty of our country in that group, but the Indian admins, moderators and members started to target us regarding the mountains not being a part of Pakistan, claiming that it’s Indian territory and we have no right to share the photos of those areas. Similarly, if we shared the photo of Attabad Lake, or any other area in Gilgit-Baltistan, they passed negative comments,” he further added.

“When we shared more photos of Pakistan, we were banned from the group. This happened last September, and at that same night, we established this page. Within days people came, shared their stuff, their experiences and it just grew into a proper community very rapidly,” the traveller told The Nation.

Faizan said another aim behind developing this platform is to promote a positive image of Pakistan at the global level and to attract foreigners. “And it has actually benefited us in this regard as six to seven foreign groups have come to Pakistan because of The Karakarom Club, and we have assisted them as much as we could,” he said.

Tourist and porters on Snow Lake Trek

The Snow Lake

Pasu Cones, Gilgit Baltistan

“It will further spread the message in international community of travellers, trekkers and mountaineers and more of them will come in the future,” he added. “Actually one of them, a British Will Hatton is in Gligit-Baltistan right now. He is a traveller and writes a travelogue and has huge fan following. He is having a good time in Pakistan and when he shares it with his followers, it will send be a huge boost for our homeland,” Farhan explained.

“In recent years, we have seen a boom in local tourism industry. Now we need to attract foreigners because it will bring revenue and global positivity.”

About highlighting the issue of wall-chalking and paint on the important spots in northern areas, Farhan told The Nation that  it is all voluntary work by the members, some of whom highlight the issue, and those who are near or can reach that spot erase it, paint over it or whitewash it. “In some cases we contact the person or organization whose advertisement is being wall-chalked and some of them have promised us that they will remove it,” he further shared.

Ultar Sar

“It is not a proper policy of our page, it is just love of our members with those areas and the natural beauty of Pakistan that they don’t want it to lose its allure,” he emphasized.

Furthermore Nida Aziz and Mobeen Mazhar, the other members of admin panel of The Karakarom Club (TKC) told The Nation that the group has become a family for both us and the members. "Number of tour operators have started to ask us about the arrangements of trips, members post their queries and we as a group answered them and try to guide them better," Nida stated. Mobeen added that the launch of a website of Karakaram Club and a plantation drive in Northern Areas are the future plans of KTC. "We have started to get the fruit of our hard work as in last few months the members have increased immensely, many famous personalities like Rock Star Ali Azmat has also become part of KTC," the admins told The Nation.

While discussing tourism development in Pakistan, Farhan said the government needs to take major steps on emergency footings. “Right now the government is not doing much and the local boom is mainly because of the individuals, groups and different organizations,” he pointed out. “Tourism has the ability to advertise the real and positive image of Pakistan in global community and we want the government support to achieve this goal,” Farhan concluded.