Pakistan’s favourite travel guide is back and more adventurous than ever

Wajahat Malik has a new show on PTV but is still the same adventurer who guided us through our childhoods.
06 Jul, 2024

Have you ever felt the thrill of discovering that a cherished memory from the past, like a treasured nostalgic movie or TV show, is making a comeback? That’s the excitement many PTV viewers of yore are currently experiencing as a unique travel and adventure show from the late 90s and early 2000s has made its return to the small screen. First aired in 1999 on PTV with the name Travel Guide of Pakistan, this one-of-a-kind series is making a promising comeback with, heralding the return of its charismatic host, Wajahat Malik.

The show’s revival couldn’t come at a better time for PTV or for Pakistan’s budding tourism industry, which is being promoted relentlessly by the government — so much so that groups of foreign travel content creators have been invited to meet Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in the recent past.

Long before Bear Grylls became a global name, Malik was showcasing Pakistan’s stunning landscapes and diverse topography, taking viewers on thrilling adventures across the country. A true maverick, and a gypsy at heart, Malik has dedicated his career to exploring and promoting Pakistan’s natural beauty. The years haven’t diminished his passion.

In an exclusive interview with Images, Malik shared what drives him to keep exploring and showcasing the wonders of — and now, mostly the harsh realities facing Pakistan, such as pollution, irresponsible tourism and lack of civic sense.

“People these days are mindlessly patriotic, hyper-nationalistic, and jingoistic. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am none of that. But despite all of this, it’s as simple as this — I love my land,” Malik shared. It is this deep-rooted love for Pakistan that drives his work.

Despite getting numerous chances to relocate to foreign lands after his shows and expeditions almost ended, an adventurer soul like his never left for greener pastures.

“I have travelled to far-off places, even lived eight years of my life in the US in the early 90s when I was studying and had a great chance of obtaining citizenship. But with my fully sane mind, I rejected the offered green card because I knew I could never call [the US] my own.

“I saw how migrants are treated and decided I would never go through it all.”

One might wonder about Malik’s decision, given the difficulties Pakistan has since found itself in. Malik dismisses the thought with a wry laugh as we speak about the absurd situation the country is stuck in. He calls it an interesting country, full of conundrums, that pulled him back every time an opportunity like that landed at his door.

“Of course, this is my country and I love everything about it. I can’t go and live somewhere else because I am deeply rooted in Pakistan, its air, its land, its mountains.”

Challenges aplenty

Curiosity about what lies beyond the peak — much like many moments Malik has encountered in his own life — mirrors the current situation of Pakistanis who find themselves sucked into a whirlpool of problems amid an uncertain future, striving to gain perspective from the peak.

During our conversation, Malik delved into the harsh realities that are not only damaging the country’s social and environmental fabric but also eroding the nation from within. His problem-solving skills and survival instincts are constantly at work as he attempts to outline solutions — something our government has consistently failed to achieve.

As an environmentalist and climate change activist, Malik firmly believes that climate change should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, viewing it as Pakistan’s most pressing issue. He recalled the devastating floods of 2022 due to which almost a third of Pakistan was submerged, and the recent heatwaves that have accelerated the melting of glaciers up north.

However, the realist in him recognises the true threat is political instability. “How can a country survive if it is politically unstable? Without political stability, there can be no economic stability, and without economic stability, addressing critical issues like climate change becomes nearly impossible,” Malik highlighted.

Climate change, which has recently become a top priority for many, is an issue close to Malik’s heart and something he has always been mulling over for some time. His work focuses on land conservation, particularly illustrated by his decision to raft down the length of the mighty Indus River with a group of intrepid adventurers back in 2022. During this mission to document how this ‘river of life’ is faring in the face of environmental degradation and human intervention, he gained a lifetime of learning about Pakistan, its land, and the critical connection between water, land and its species.

Back to the future

Malik is from Mansehra and spent his childhood exploring the mountains and cultivating his now deep knowledge about the land and its topography. Becoming an outdoor TV presenter was never part of his plan.

Coming from a family of diplomats, he moved abroad for higher studies, an education that contributed to creating a wonderful mix of scientific knowledge and regional wisdom that he acquired by living with the locals in Mansehra. In 1999, the country gained a TV presenter and who not only provided cherished and thrilling views but also truly understood what he was talking about and made sure to share his knowledge with his keen audience.

And now he’s back on the same channel, the state broadcaster PTV, despite the growing number of privately-run channels that have mushroomed in Pakistan.

When the topic turned to his decision to return to the same platform where he started his journey, we segued into an interesting conversation. Malik said that PTV, as the state’s channel, is still being watched everywhere. “PTV is a terrestrial channel watched by many, from cities to villages to mountainous areas. Even today, people in the streets recognise me because they have seen me on it.”

His sentiments and the feeling of nostalgia is reflected through the many comments left by fans on videos of his old shows on YouTube or his own social media accounts.

PTV, according to Malik, focuses on educational programmes for the public that other channels either miss or feel they are not responsible for producing. That’s why he believes those channels are lacking this aspect when it comes to curating shows, series, or programmes for their viewers.

He pointed out that for these “sethia-run channels”, their content is quite limited. “Their [private channels’] horizons are limited to soaps, dramas, or news, which then further limits the horizons of people watching. They can’t think beyond that.”

But that doesn’t mean he’s wearing rose-tinted glasses when it comes to working for PTV again. He’s been working with the state broadcaster on and off for years — most recently on his show Rickshaw Diaries in which he made history by travelling to the Khunjerab Pass at the Pakistan-China border in May 2019, the first time a four-stroke rickshaw reached an altitude of 4,700 metres above sea level. Malik feels that while PTV is mandated to showcase documentaries, shows, and series that highlight the positive aspects of Pakistan and educate audiences, the choice to work with it comes with its own set of pros and cons.

He acknowledges the puzzling extent of censorship enforced by the state channel. With a wry chuckle, Malik remarked, “At times, I wonder, konsi sadi main reh rahe hain [what century are they living in].” He recalled a time when channel officials instructed him not to pose shirtless by the pool or show ants on graves in a graveyard. “What else could we show besides a man shirtless in a pool or ants on graves?” he questioned incredulously.

“It is shocking, but it is also the reality and is part and parcel of working with them. PTV’s marketing is not the greatest, and the broadcasting quality is not high but is improving and is better now than in the past. Political activities can disrupt your show, but at least they still air it.”

Despite these issues, Malik says he would rather work with them over any other channel, because he believes it is still the most-watched channel in the country. While that is certainly debatable, especially given the popularity of private TV channels, he said a big chunk of people in rural areas watch PTV.

Social media versus TV

During our discussion, we finally turned to a very important aspect of travel journalism today — social media. When asked how he plans to compete with local and international influencers promoting tourism and adventure through their immensely popular Instagram reels, Malik dismissed them with a flick of the finger.

“Documentary-making and documentary-makers have depth, while vloggers, though famous on social media, are superficial and lack depth,” he asserted. “These reels are fine for instant gratification but it can never satisfy someone seeking details and knowledge. You remember them for two minutes and then swipe away,” he added.

For Malik, his work and mission are different. He aims to educate, provide in-depth content, and make a lasting impact on the hearts of his audience.

With the first four episodes already out, watch Malik’s latest series Adventure Pakistan on Thursdays at 6pm on PTV Home or on YouTube.


Taj Ahmad Jul 06, 2024 12:54pm
Simply beautiful and amazing and Pakistan Zindabad.
Amin Jul 06, 2024 01:32pm
It was astonishing to hear that someone left the US for Pakistan. There were many occasions since last two decades where people came to Pakistan but unfortunately went back with grief and despair. Best wishes and prayer for Wjahat Malik.
Asif Jul 06, 2024 02:29pm
You made me fall in love with outdoors. Time has flown , not the same energy, still miss those days and your show . Thank you.
Syed Hasni Jul 06, 2024 04:16pm
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain Timely initiative for our conservative society. I still feel so grateful to my family who in my childhood, during summer vacation Drove us from Karachi to Kaghan!
Afzal Jul 06, 2024 04:48pm
Great work! Keep going...for the sake of Pakistan.
Taj Ahmad Jul 06, 2024 05:29pm
With out a doubt, Pakistan’s is a beautiful country by all means, we have high mountains, beautiful oceans and beaches, natural greenery, water falls such as Hunza valley, let’s travel to Pakistan now.
Ehsan Jul 06, 2024 06:43pm
Remember his original shows, way ahead of everyone, hope the new show is of international level, wish him and his team all the best
Agha Asad Raza Jul 06, 2024 08:52pm
I really wonder if you got your facts and figures right about climate change? You mentioned flooding here in Pakistan recently. Climate change has nothing to do with it. Right from the north to the south it was man made. Study the facts before making such sweeping statements.
Sayyar Khan Jul 06, 2024 09:26pm
Malik is a True Gypsy. An amazing guy. Malik hopefully we meet again brother.
Iftikhar Uddin Jul 06, 2024 10:25pm
Would like to know more
Iftikhar Uddin Jul 06, 2024 10:27pm
Would like to know more on travel and tourism related topics in Pakista.
Zaeem Jul 07, 2024 01:45am
Either he should do programmes in Urdu or opt for English instead of Minglish! Worst editing as you can't understand a word except his heavy breathing
MAB Jul 07, 2024 04:38am
Great article. Wish our politicians could have the same enthusiasm and perhaps they can see that the way they are conducting to enhance their legacy is in fact tarnishing it and the people are paying the price. The natural beauty that Pakistan offers would attract millions of tourists.
Khurram Aziz Jul 07, 2024 09:07am
I am and pleasantly surprised that there are some die-hard supporters of Pakistan still around.Good luck to Malik in his future endeavours
Irfan khan Jul 07, 2024 10:52am
Before you invite Westerners n Foreigners. Any progress in Tourism Has to begin with internal & National Awareness n Opportunity for all Pakistanis to be able to freely move And Tour n Travel within their Own Country. Unless 90% of Pakistanis from all Provincess participate in developing A Fully Functional Tour n Travel Bureau for the Local Citizenry. Bringing Foreigners n Westerners will not n Should be encouraged.
Fasiha Seemi Jul 07, 2024 03:00pm
Much-appreciating step taken by Wajahat Malick, love to watch his programme and would like to welcome him back.
Javid Jul 07, 2024 07:04pm
Pakistan is a long term project, and you're making your unique contribution. Long may you continue.
Khalid Mustafa Jul 08, 2024 11:39am
Malik sb, Welcome back. All the best & regards,
Sadaf Rehman Jul 08, 2024 02:57pm
I have been waiting for this so long... I still remember his PTV travelogues and following his profile since then.. I am sure that kids will watch him and it will be embedded in their minds forever and they will fall in love with the land and will care for it. Big ups!!
Laila Jul 08, 2024 05:24pm
@Amin, Technically he did not leave Pakistan. The article states he spent 8 years in the US for study purposes and then he came back. So Pakistan was always his home.
Zeeshan Ahmed Jul 08, 2024 06:17pm
He is also a reminder of the good days in Pakistan.
Laila Jul 09, 2024 03:59pm
Some of the issues Malik mentioned is why Pakistan will continue to lag and regress compared to other developing and third world nations and why we can never become a (safe or responsible) tourist destination like Turkey, Morocco etc. Censoring naturally occuring things like ants on graves? Why? Such mindless censorship of common sense and natural things in nature are regressive.
Laila Jul 09, 2024 04:10pm
@MAB Absolutely, but Pakistan remains an unsafe tourist destination for now. We have a long way to go before we can even be close to Turkey, Egypt, Morocco and benefit from the tourism industry. The rampant corruption, the lack of safety for local citizens let alone foreigners, the focus on women and women's clothing, the deliberately uncurbed and unpunished crimes of sexual violence, the real risk of abduction and killing ( especially if you wear anything with Arabic writing or motifs or are just foreign and vulnerable), the persecution of local minorities. Despite what we have to offer O would never advise anybody to explore a country when even I can't travel safely in. Especially not alone. Eradication of corruption and mindless censorship and control of mob and citizens and education of our people with emphasis on tolerance and factual knowledge are crucial first steps. Then we can imagine the influx of funds from tourism and a better economy and more jobs.
Umaraahsan Jul 10, 2024 10:42am
Glad to see you sir that you are back with more adventurous things.i am your big fan.
KHAN wang Jul 11, 2024 12:15pm
First, the government needs to pay attention to the public safety environment. One of the important conditions for attracting travelers is the need for a safe social environment.