PESHAWAR: The management of the Malam Jabba ski resort has closed the picturesque tourist place for the general public after the contractor was stopped from charging entry fees, which were deemed to be a tax.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari said in a tweet, “Unfortunate to see one of our best resorts close down at the peak of tourism season. This upsets many people’s plans just days away from Ramazan.. the last thing Pakistan’s booming tourism industry needs right now is disruptiveness.”
Interestingly, TMO Charbagh had informed the court that the contractor company – Samsons Group of Companies – was charging this amount prior to the lease agreement in 2014.
Mohammad Tahir Qasimka, a legal advisor for the company, said that the resort was closed after a Peshawar High Court’s Mingora bench ordered the company not to charge the entry fee to the resort which was a major source of revenue for the company.
He said that some miscreants in the area were using different arm-twisting tactics to pressure the company to wind up its billions of rupees investment from the area.
The advisor said the company had invested over Rs300 crore in the area to benefit the locals and provide top-of-the-line chairlift, zipline, and skiing facilities to tourists, and helped arrange many national and international events there.
Hundreds of locals of the area also recently stormed the place and threatened the company’s management to leave the area, he said, adding that the company’s business was not profitable after a ban on the entry fee.
He added that the Forest department officials – armed with weapons – have been harassing the company for three years.
The advisor said that under clause 18 of the lease agreement, the government had allowed the company to charge the entry fee to the resort, which the court had now banned on a writ petition of the local lawyers.
The company is now requesting the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government through a letter to fulfill its lease agreement conditions and commitments as the company was paying around Rs20 million to the government in the annual fee.
At least 500 people are direct employees of the company working at the resort and their jobs are now on the line as the company had closed the place.
After years of closure during Taliban times, the company had restored the tourism activities in the area in 2014 through an investment of billions of rupees on the installation of the chairlift, Pakistan’s longest zip line, skiing slopes, flowers, trees, and construction of all other necessary facilities like toilets for the tourists and public.