The condition was imposed in 2010 following the military operation against militants in Swat.
The authorities toughened the process of the NOC issuance to foreigners for Malakand tour in the wake of the 2011 killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by the US Navy SEALs in Abbottabad.
Police, tourism dept to ensure security of foreign tourists
On Tuesday (March 29), the provincial home and tribal affairs department sent a letter to the tourism secretary and provincial police chief simultaneously declaring foreign tourists no more require NOC to visit Malakand division as the region has been declared ‘open and is no longer a restricted area.’
The letter said the Pakistan Association of Tour Operators should be facilitated in organising tourist tours.
He said the NOC condition had been withdrawn in consultation with the interior ministry.
The official said the interior ministry had declared that the provision of security to foreign visitors was the responsibility of the provincial police and tourism department and therefore, both should make proper arrangements for it.
A senior official at the home department said the NOC condition was a ‘precautionary measure’ to protect foreigners in the volatile region.
He said the lifting of the NOC condition showed that the law and order situation had improved in the region and therefore, foreigners could go there unrestricted.
A source in the tourism department said the NOC issue had kept foreigners away from the scenic areas of Swat and Chitral.
He said foreigners were often harassed by the police and security forces, which turned them away from Dargai check post over absence of NOCs to visit the region.
The source said getting NOC from the home department was a tedious process as all requests of foreign visitors had to go through the ‘scanners’ of security forces, which took weeks to process a single request in some cases.
When contacted, adviser to the KP Tourism Corporation Dr. Ali Jan said the tourism department had raised the NOC issue at several forums.
He said the recently-unveiled KP Tourism Policy 2016 emphasised the need to maximise facilitation for tourists and minimise restrictions for them.
Mr. Jan said the easing of travel curbs on foreigners would send out a positive message to the world that the areas with immense tourism potential were completely open to foreigners.
He said hundreds of families lived in the region, whose bread and butter depended on tourism, and therefore, the arrival of tourists in large numbers would generate great economic activity for them.
“It is just a start. The KP government is determined to make the province a travel-friendly and enjoyable destination for everybody,” he said. -MANZOOR ALI, DAWN
THE PASHTUN TIMES