This paper discusses recent conservation efforts in Northern Pakistan and the relevance of national parks as legal instruments in nature and wildlife conservation. Employing an extensive case-study approach the paper analyzes the problems afflicting the Khunjerab National Park and discusses why the World Conservation Union (IUCN) disregarded its own policy guidelines for mountain protected areas. The paper advocates a more democratic and pragmatic approach to nature conservation and argues that national parks as traditionally conceived impose heavy burdens on local people. Despite increasing criticism of national parks, they continue to be implemented often for no other reason than the high conservationist profile this alternative offers.