Harassment of woman tourist leads to creation of Helpline: AC Hunza

It is often said that one incident should be enough for authorities to take action. In July a lady who went to Hunza valley for site seeing was harassed by some boys. At that time she had no medium to launch a complaint against them so she took their pictures and started a social media campaign against them. Within no time the post went viral.

When the campaign came to the notice of Assistant Commissioner Hunza, Mr. Anas Goraya he initiated immediate action and set up a helpline to deal with such cases.

While it is the state’s responsibility to provide security to the people of Pakistan, as a representative of the government, AC Anas Goraya took it upon himself to deal with such situations. Speaking to The Nation he said, “I took this initiative after the July incident. If an incident takes place people should have a medium to report and get help from. The aim of this helpline is to provide a safe and secure environment for people especially our ladies coming to these areas.”

He said the landline helpline number of AC Hunza 05813 921704 is available from 9 AM to 4 PM. However the cell phone number 0355 5550203 and email assistantcommissioner.hunza@gmail.com are available round the clock. The system has been set up for both for locals and visitors to report any case of mistreatment, harassment, or quality of food/overcharging in Hotel’s. He said all efforts will be made to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of any crime.

Hunza valley in Gilit-Baltistan has a population of about fifty thousand people with rich traditions and culture. He added, “Hunza valley is a very safe place. People here are very particular in following their traditions and they give women a lot of respect. Ladies here can be seen running their own businesses and working in shops also. So when this incident with the lady visitor happened and the locals came to know about it, they were disturbed and asked me to do something about it; and this is the result of it.”

AC Anas also messaged Meenah Tariq to inform her of the Helpline in Hunza and she expressed her happiness on Facebook by saying, “I cried when I saw this message. I feel so immensely happy that this step in the right direction was taken, and that this gentleman was thoughtful enough to share with me that my story in some way contributed to positive change. I am extremely grateful.”

She also said, “I also feel like I have suddenly been infused with hope. How many times have you been told it is useless to complain? Here is proof that we do need to keep speaking up about issues we face, having these conversations, sparking dialogue even when it’s difficult. Someone listened, someone took notice, and a fantastic initiative that will safeguard basic human rights was born. All it takes is a few good people with the right agendas and enough authority to bring about massive positive impact. If we keep speaking up, we will get to those people, we will influence those people, and we will become those people.”

Meenah also spoke about the reaction she faced from people when she spoke about the harassment, “I felt doubly violated because of the horrible comments and hate mail that I started getting. It got so bad that I un-subscribed from my own post so I wouldn’t read any more. As the post got more attention, it filtered into my offline life - my parents and parents in law were questioned about the ‘nature’ of my experience. Everywhere I went, people brought this up. Some in sly, strange ways, but many with love and support. My husband kept saying ‘you’ve got nothing to worry about, this is the right thing to do’. He had to repeat it many, many times before I started to believe it.”

As tourism in Pakistan has been very adversely affected by terrorism, the efforts at local and GB level, have shown an increase especially in the past three years. Locals and foreigners have started to visit the Northern Areas to explore the beauty of Pakistan and the KKH. There are comfortable hotels and rooms available for tourists which being maintained under the supervision of AC Goraya. “We also make sure the hotel rooms and guest houses are neat and clean with toilets and other facilities; the kitchen is properly equipped and the food is of good quality, fire safety is also taken care of. The room rents have to be of reasonable rates and if anyone has any complaints they can contact us.

About the incident earlier he said it will be resolved as soon as possible.” The AC shared an incident saying, “Last month we got a call from a tourist that he got food poisoning from the food of the hotel where he stayed. After conducting an inquiry we found the hotel owner at fault so we fined the hotel owner and asked him to pay for the medical expense incurred by the tourist.”  For keeping cleanliness in restaurants we have given awareness to people by providing them with gloves and hairnets etc.

Separate Hotels and tourist spots have been earmarked for foreigners so they do not face any issues. Especially with the construction of China Pakistan Economic Corridor a lot of foreigners have to visit the area and their safety and security are important. “The people of Hunza are very careful about their reputation as such they want to provide a safe environment to foreigners. As per law all foreigners are required to report to the AC office daily.” According to AC about 4,500 foreigners and a hundred and fifty thousand local tourists visited Hunza last year.

Garbage is another major concern for the people of Hunza. They have been complaints of locals littering the place, according to Anas Goraya, “The local people hardly have much garbage, as they don’t use non-biodegradable stuff. But tourists generate a lot of garbage so we have hired a team of twelve people to clean and dispose the litter; we plan to start using replace manual garbage collecting with proper machinery soon.”

This initiative of the helpline will give tourists especially women more confidence to travel and explore the land. He said at no point should a woman feel helpless or insecure and hoped these steps would be taken across Pakistan to improve the tourism industry in other parts also. From tourism Pakistan can generate a lot of revenue, and if proper facilities are provided and standards are improved then tourism can thrive, as there are beautiful places to explore on this land.

R Umaima Ahmed

Umaima Ahmed is a member  of staff

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