It is common to hear questions about safety when traveling to Pakistan. But many international travelers who visit Gilgit Baltistan claim it to be one of the safest places they have visited. What is it about the world-famous mountain region of Gilgit Baltistan that makes it so safe?
Gilgit Baltistan is where the three highest mountain ranges of Hindu Kush, Karakoram, and the Himalayas stand together, resulting in one of the most spectacular adventure travel destinations on the planet. It is home to Wakhi, Khowar, Shina, and Balti speakers as well as speakers of Burushaski, which is unique because it is a language unrelated to the others. In this land, hospitality knows no end and every landscape is an inspiration.
Crime in Gilgit Baltistan
Drastic progress has been made across the world in the past two centuries to improve education, technology, and the economy. Developed economies have been at the forefront of this advancement. For instance, in 2022, the crime rate in the United Kingdom was 79 per 1,000 people. That same year, in the United States there were nearly 400 violent crimes per 100,000 people. Even with high literacy rates and enormous financial, technical, and human resources, the world's leading nations have been unable to reduce crime rates significantly.
Although it seems implausible that there is a region with almost zero crime rate, an anomaly does exist, and it is located in northern Pakistan. The Gilgit Baltistan region enjoys a reputation as a safe place with a low crime, and its geography and history play a part.
Gilgit Baltistan boasts beautiful valleys and mountains, including the famous K2, the second-highest mountain in the world. Comprised of the districts of Skardu, Shigar, Kharmang, Roundu, and Ghanche, Baltistan's total population is 303,214, and has reported little to no crime for the last 15 years.
History and Geography
Gilgit Baltistan is the land of centuries-old travel and trade routes and is the only part of Pakistan that borders four countries. Landlocked between the mighty mountain ranges of the Himalayas and Karakoram, for a long time the region was only open to the outside world for three months in summer. Only in the 1970s, with the construction of a jeep road and better infrastructure, did the region begin to see significant exposure to the outside world and receive an influx of domestic and international tourists.
Baltis have a rich culture of broqchos, swords, yakkha, and ghazal dances. When the raja is getting married, which is the sneopa, the marriage procession dance is carried out by pachones or the twelve wazirs that come along with the bride.
Indigenous to the Karakoram region, polo has been a traditional and prevalent sport in Gilgit Baltistan since the 15th century. The rulers here introduced it to the other valleys while there were conquests beyond Chitral and Gilgit. Polo competitions are regularly held throughout Gilgit Baltistan, reinforcing a social bond among the communities.
The architecture has its Mughal and Tibetan influences, while the mosaic architecture features Buddhist imprints; hence the Buddhist style wall paintings can be found at Sufi Khanqahs and forts. Sufism and Shia Islamic ideologies are pluralistic and inclusive in their nonviolent attitude towards other sects and religions.
Social Bonding and Identity
The region's unique ethnic identity and geographical isolation are conducive for communities to form strong bonds with family members, relatives, and friends. If someone finds cash, a bag, or a lost wallet, an advertisement is published or an announcement is made in the mosque to ensure that the lost property is returned to the owner promptly. Often, people leave their homes and shops unlocked because there is no concept of robbery or theft.
A strong belief in the social moral system enables the people of Baltistan to adhere to the values of the community so there is a low tendency to engage in crime. The people of Gilgit Baltistan strongly identify with their region and unique culture. They consider all inhabitants of their region as their ingroup. The value of benevolence-concern for social welfare points to their desire to avoid causing harm to their community or region and to take care of the mountaineers and tourists who visit the region.
Beyond the Valley offers a wide range of tours in Gilgit Baltistan, including trekking, hard and soft adventure, and cultural journeys. To learn more about Beyond the Valley, please visit: btvadventures.com.