PESHAWAR -- Pakistan has reconstructed the chairlift at the Malam Jabba Ski Resort, eight years after Taliban militants destroyed the scenic Swat Valley facility.
Malam Jabba Ski Resort on the Karakaram mountain range in Swat District was created in the 1990s with assistance from the Austrian government.
The Taliban attacked the recreation facility in 2008, burning down a hotel and the 800-metre chairlift.
In September 2014, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government decided to rebuild the resort and awarded a contract to a private firm to build two hotels, a chairlift, cable car, and snow-boarding and ski slopes.
Workers completed the chairlift September 1.
"Seven years after the military launched an operation in 2009 to clear Swat Valley of the Taliban, the government reconstructed the chairlift to express its resolve to rebuild all the infrastructure damaged by terrorists and convey to the world community that peace has returned to the region," said Zahoor Durrani, a consultant for the Tourism Corporation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (TCKP).
"The objective behind the reconstruction of terrorism-damaged infrastructure is to express our resilience as a nation that wants development and prosperity, not destruction and backwardness," Zahoor told Pakistan Forward.
"We want to convey to the world that we are struggling for the restoration of peace in our region by defeating the mindset of a handful of elements who are bent upon causing destruction," he said.
Similar projects will be launched at feasible locations throughout the region with the objective of attracting tourists, Imran Khan, chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the ruling party in KP, said at a ceremony inaugurating the chairlift.
"We are making efforts to increase tourism in the area and restore confidence by rebuilding damaged infrastructure," he said.
"The government is keen to revive the lost glory of Swat, which was a tourist favourite because of its eye-catching scenery and breathtaking views of lakes and hills," Imran said.
"The KP government is developing tourist sites in Malakand Division with the aim of helping people of the region to emerge from the fear caused by the Taliban's destruction," said Mushtaq Ghani, information advisor to KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak.
The Taliban's reign of terror and killing in the region during 2007-2008 pushed Malakand residents into the dark ages, Mushtaq told Pakistan Forward.
"The objective behind the revival of tourism activities in the region is not only to promote economic activities but also to restore the confidence of people of the area," he said.
Recently, the KP government arranged a festival in Buner District, which the Taliban held years ago, Mushtaq said. The objective of holding the festival was to demonstrate the restoration of peace and the eviction of the Taliban.
The Pakistani army played a key role in restoring peace to Malakand, he said.
Now the government is working to restore normality to the region by rebuilding infrastructure and tourist sites.
Total restoration of the Malam Jabba Ski Resort will cost Rs. 3 billion (US $3m), Zahra Alam, spokeswoman for TCKP, told Pakistan Forward.
The KP government awarded the project to Samson Group, a development company, she said.
The contractor agreed to build two hotels, a health club and conference halls, she said.
"The chairlift project was completed at a cost of Rs. 1 billion (US $1m) and is now operational for the general public," she told Pakistan Forward.
The new lift has 103 cable cars, while its predecessor had only 52, she said.
"Rebuilding the Malam Jabba chairlift has sent a positive sign to the people of Swat because it contains economic benefit for the whole area," said Zahid Khan, president of the Swat Hotel Association.
The Malam Jabba Ski Resort has great potential and its reconstruction will attract a large number of tourists, Zahid Khan told Pakistan Forward.
With the development of the ski resort, tourists will continue to visit the district during winter, typically a low season for tourism, he said. The increase in tourists also will boost the confidence of the people of Swat Valley, and of Malakand Division in particular, he added.
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