Sunday, April 8, 2012

Pakistan: Some 120 Tourists Evacuated from Gilgit

According to AFP, the northern Pakistani town of Gilgit has been under an indefinite curfew since April 3, when at least 14 people were killed and over 50 wounded in two separate incidents involving sectarian violence between opposing Sunni and minority Shia communities.

As a result, an estimated 120 foreigners including Chinese, German, Japanese, Korean and Thai tourists (including 77 Japanese), were evacuated from Gilgit in a C-130 that was flown up to Gilgit to pick them up and return them to Islamabad.

Clashes erupted in the northern town on April 3 after gunmen opened fire during a strike called by Sunnis over the arrest of a leader for his alleged involvement in a sectarian attack in February that left 18 dead. Five people also died in the April 3 incident.

Also on April 3 in Chilas, a Sunni-dominated town about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Gilgit, a mob blocked the main Karakoram Highway and killed nine Shia Muslims.

COMMENT: Perhaps it is time for a reality check for the tourists described above, who seemingly believe that Pakistan is now among the world's top ten tourist destinations.

From all indications many of these tourists have not been keeping up on current events as they relate to Pakistan, as demonstrated by the assassination of Chinese tourist Hua Jiang, 40, in Peshewar by a faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TPP) and the kidnapping of several foreigners over the last year.

Coincidentally, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), effective April 6, 2012, issued a warning to its citizens to "Reconsider your Need to Travel" to Pakistan and "Not Travel" to several major sections of the country.

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