MUZAFFARABAD: Hundreds of people associated with tourism industry staged protest demonstrations in at least three famous tourist destinations in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Saturday, calling upon the government to ease restrictions on tourism sector enforced in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic to help them earn a living for their dependents.
On July 23, Muzaffarabad Deputy Commissioner Badar Munir issued an order, notifying extension of relaxation in the lockdown from July 24 to Aug 5 as well as the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to be observed during this period.
However, the order made it clear that the ban on the entry of tourists in Muzaffarabad as well as the visits by locals and outsiders to tourist resorts and public parks during the Eid holidays would continue to remain in place.
Similar orders were said to have been issued by the deputy commissioners of other AJK districts.
Taking exception to the continuation of ban, demonstrations were staged in Muzaffarabad, Rawalakot and Athmuqam (Neelum valley), where participants maintained that the lockdowns and restrictions had affected the livelihood of around 500,000 people affiliated with the tourism industry.
People who eked out a living from the tourism sector had literally become penurious but the government had not offered any relief to them, they alleged.
In Muzaffarbad, participants of the demonstration paraded through the bustling Bank Road, holding banners and placards inscribed with their demands regarding restoration of tourism.
“Restore tourism, stop our economic slaughter,” read one placard.
“Restore tourism, Save Kashmir,” read another.
Adnan Awan, one of the participants, said those who owned small hotels and rest houses were not even able to pay utility bills, let alone salaries of their unavoidable staff.
He asked the government to review its decision and allow tourists, with strict adherence to the SOPs, to help the tourism sector stand on its feet.
“Only two to three months of the current tourism season are left and if restrictions are not lifted forthwith we will starve to death,”he maintained.
He called upon the government to grant interest free loans to people affiliated with this sector and waive off their utility bills.__Dawn.com