Border tourism opens between China and Pakistan across Khunjerab Pass

Beijeng, April 28: The Khunjerab Pass connecting China and Pakistan has so far been used for joint security drills and a small amount of trade between the

two countries. For the first time, the historical pass is being opened up for tourism as the two nations intensify their people to people contacts.

The first batch of Chinese tourists will leave for a trip of northern Pakistan as soon as the long and flat Pass is opened up after remaining closed for winter from November 30. The itinerary of tourists will be limited to six days and they will be asked to restrict their travels to specific areas in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.

Though NWFP is the hotbed of Taliban extremism, the mountain areas bordering China are still regarded to be peaceful and trouble free, sources said.

But there is no sign that China has agreed to allow Pakistani tourists to cross the border. This may be due to Chinese fears that extremist elements might sneak into its Xinjiang province, which is the scene of a violent movement for creation of an East Turkmenistan nation.

The decision to send Chinese tourists across the Khunjerab Pass is part of a larger programme to increase people to people contacts between the two countries. China recently accepted a proposal made by Fahmida Mirza, speaker of the Pakistani National Assembly to set up a Pakistan China Women Chamber of Commerce for better interaction between the women entrepreneurs of the two countries.

The tourism move follows a recent agreement for cooperation in a wide range of fields signed between the border Chinese province of Xinjiang and the local NWFP government. This was followed by another deal for opening up the Pakistan travel sites to Chinese tourists crossing the border on a six-day plan, the local media reported.

The local media said individuals and groups of tourists have already begun to register themselves for visiting Pakistan during the coming May Day holidays.China is also encouraging domestic tourists to visit places in its own Xinjiang region like Kashgar City, Kalakuli Lake, Sand Mountain, Ghez Canyon and Mount Muztag before visiting Pakistan.

The Khunjerab Pass is the world’s highest paved road, which remains open between May and November only. Pakistan has been pressing China to invest in broadening the road in order to enhance trade between the two countries and bring goods from the port of Gadwar, which has been built with Chinese assistance.