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Terrorism devours tourism


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-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.

A country where there are huge mountains, highest peaks, flowing rivers and beautiful lakes where the birds from Siberia migrate to during the winters. The dancing waves of the sea and the welcoming arms of the deserts. A country on whose history, civilisation and culture, the entire world prides itself on. A country that is full of different kinds of rich culture. Its green fields resound with melodies of Sufi poetry and people all over the world are lovers of its folk songs. Having all of the above, if a country does not have a tourist, then that country is unfortunate.

The rest of the world may have nothing but they still present their civilisation, history, and culture of their country in a manner that compels people to visit their country. Our neighbouring countries depend on their tourism industries to sustain their economies. Not Pakistan. It is not only are our inept leaders who are responsible for tarnishing our culture but also the religious bullies and of course, terrorism – they are all to blame for successfully gobbling up our tourism industry.

All those foreigners who used to visit Pakistan have now forgotten the route to our country. Even our own people who were somewhat interested in sightseeing and wished to tell their children about our civilisation and history and thus used to go on tours across the country during school holidays now cannot muster up the courage to step out of their homes. The rich ones don’t like to see the beauty of their own country anyway and prefer to spend every holiday abroad.

Even if Pakistanis wanted to tour their own country, their feet are put in iron shackles first by the inflation and then by the unrest and the widespread plundering and killing, as well as the bomb blasts; preventing them from stepping out of their homes.

And where will a Pakistani go anyway? Balochistan, where the rule of terror and the FC exists? Or Sindh, where neither the cities are safe nor the villages? Punjab, which is being gradually given up to the lashkars in the hope of obtaining more and more votes? Or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which is trembling from the fear of the Taliban? Or Swat, where people’s main sustenance was through tourism, had just started to get back on its feet when the Taliban shot Malala, thus pushing Swatis’ deeper in the abyss. Are there any other places left for tourists?

If a conference invitation, coupled with a free ticket for discussions on Malala or some other smouldering issue presents itself, intellectuals, journalists and activists will jump on the plane, eager to lend a ear to each other. They merely regurgitate the very same thoughts to each other at these conferences; such people will not be seen at the protests for Malala though, but if you bear their expenses, they will come running to participate in a heated debate on issues that plague the country and try to resolve them in a nice, cool environment for a few days.

Previously, whenever a poor person’s heart was distressed, he or she would turn towards shrines but now, even those shrines are being bombed. So we are left with historical sites, which attract the interests of neither the people nor the government. Forty years ago, the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) was established but now it is nearing its demise. Any day now, we will be hearing of its passing away. One cut of the knife was applied by the Taliban and the other cut was administered by the government who divided up everything for the purposes of reconciliation in a manner that the tourism ministry ended up in Jamiat-Ulema-i- Islam’s Maulana Attaur Rehman’s hands.

-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.

Maulana heading the tourism industry is like a blind person being made chairperson of the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee – although that is what happens here anyway. As soon as the  Maulana came to his tenure, he prohibited alcoholic drinks reserved for foreign tourists in the nationwide PTDC motels and guesthouses. Then, he went to Vietnam to attend the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Conference in Hanoi and complained about the international media portraying Pakistan as being unsafe. Furthermore, he declared the Taliban a peaceful group, leaving the international media and tourism experts shell shocked.

However, the last blow occurred when the federation transferred certain powers to the provinces, and the tourism ministry also came within the provinces’ control. The provincial governments can hardly manage to look after their provinces; the tourism industry is hardly of any importance to them anyway. The funds for the other provincial ministries and departments had always been embezzled and now the same will happen for the provincial tourism ministry. They sit comfortably after publishing a few advertisements in their favourite newspapers, when in reality there are no facilities anywhere across the province. Even the photographs used in these advertisements are taken from the internet with no credit whatsoever given to the original photographer. They must keep the newspaper people happy, and what better way to do that while saving a few lacs for themselves from the total budget.

If you do wish to travel the length and breadth of the country then either you or one of your relatives must be in the military, for their guesthouses are spread all over the country. If not the military, you must have some contacts within the bureaucracy to be able to tour the country. If you dare to go on a tour entirely on your own, you will barely manage to find a place to sleep in and you should forget about security altogether; just like you find a board in parking areas that say ‘park at your own risk’ even though you have paid.

-Photos by Khuda Bux Abro.

Our tourism has been tarnished by everyone, from the Taliban right down to the incompetent governments. We can earn so much revenue from tourism; unemployment can be reduced greatly. While other countries mint money from their tourism industries, we are emptying out the public’s pockets without giving them anything in return. Whatever remaining entertainment we had left is now being thrown into the fire too. Only the mosques and madrassas are increasing in their numbers. But no one is ready to take up the responsibility of ensuring that means of education, entertainment, health and security are provided to people.

Don’t go too further, just take a look at Sri Lanka, Nepal, India and even Iran. The entire world travels to these countries for tourism purposes. Even if foreign tourists don’t go there, the locals use their holidays to go sightseeing in their own country. But in our country, people are urged to stay home during holidays. Even the phones are shut down as there might be ‘danger of terrorist activities’. What I don’t understand is if they already have information on terrorist activities, why do they tell people to sit inside their homes instead of stopping the terrorists from going ahead with their plans? In some ways that almost feels like terrorism is being spread by the government itself! The Taliban call up journalists and TV channels to give their interviews, get their statements published and yet are somehow never caught by anyone.

You and I ‘like’, comment and share photographs that show the majestic beauty of our beloved Pakistan on Facebook without even knowing who actually clicked those photographs. Someone probably copies photos off various websites without permission to post it on their Facebook page, while receiving praise for free. The one who actually clicked those photographs usually has no idea and even if he or she does, there is nothing they can actually do about it. The ones who used their photographs without credit were doing the country a service anyway.

At the most, you can derive some happiness from seeing these photographs and being proud of your history, civilisation and culture, so what if you cannot simply go and see all these scenic places. Not only do you need courage and money for this but you also need facilities and security. Who is going to provide you with the security? Not everyone’s relatives are in the military, nor does everyone have contacts in the bureaucracy. So then, just be content with these pictures on Facebook. Be sure to ‘like’ them.


The author has dabbled in every form of the visual arts. An activist to the core, Abro’s work deals with social themes and issues ranging from human rights to dictatorial regimes. He is currently working for DAWN as an illustrator.

Author Image
The author has dabbled in every form of the visual arts. An activist to the core, Abro’s work deals with social themes and issues ranging from human rights to dictatorial regimes. He is currently working for DAWN as an illustrator.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (31) Closed

Assad Nov 03, 2012 06:17am
Beautiful maybe for you - but not for the society and world at large.
Amna Yamin (@AmnaYamin) Nov 02, 2012 11:30am
The author apparently has never travelled across Pakistan. I would urge you to step out of your comfort zone. Carry a backpack and travel by bus to Hunza, or if more adventurous to k2 base camp. You want to travel in Balochistan, go to ZIarat and marvel at the Juniper forests. You want to tour around Punjab, do a road trip via the GT road, and if Sindh terrorizes you a day trip to French beach would do you good. I assure you hotels can be found in all these areas. You just need a little cash and no high fi relatives for this.
Sandip Nov 01, 2012 12:48pm
This are first steps of disintegration of country. What keeps country together is people able to visting each other. If people stay in home then there is no integration and then who has interest in keeping country together?
Kadlekai Nov 01, 2012 04:34pm
Pakistan has worked very hard to fabricate history that has no resemblance to its real history, and its "civilization" barely exists. So, Pakistanis are left confused and act out in deranged ways. It is left with natural beauty that the people cannot lay claim to, but then they are busy desecrating it. No wonder the tourists stay away!
Tony Nov 01, 2012 03:42pm
India's rich history as well as its cultural and geographical diversity, make its international tourism appeal, quite large and diverse. It presents heritage and cultural tourism along with medical, business and sports tourism. India has one of the largest and fastest growing medical tourism sectors. In 2011, total Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTA) in India were 6.18 million and Foreign Exchange Earnings stood at US$ 16.691 billion. According to World Travel and Tourism Council, India will be a tourism hot-spot from 2009 to 2018, having the highest 10-year growth potential. Tourism in India is the largest service industry, with a contribution of 6.23% to the national GDP and 8.78% of the total employment in India. The total annual Foreign Exchange revenues from the tourism industry are expected to reach more than $ 25 billion by 2013. Apart from millions of foreign tourists, whose annual numbers are expected to reach more than 10 million by 2013, the domestic tourism too is a multi-billion dollar industry. Almost the entire economies of States like Kashmir and Goa are funded by huge numbers of domestic tourists, though Goa has a large arrivals of foreign tourists too, who come by chartered planes.
Saad Anwar Nov 03, 2012 07:15am
I appreciate your article but the reason behind all this is the situation of Pakistan like terrorism, killings, corruption much more. My personal views i also want to see the beauty of SWAT, Hunza-VAlly, Lalazar but the thing make me afraid to go there is terrorism, killings of innocent, failure of law enforcement. Government have to take some major steps to attract tourists towards Pakistan.
abro Nov 02, 2012 02:01pm
I have always travelled by bus with my family to all the places you have mentioned. Not only Hunza but till zero point Pak-China border, not only Ziarat but till Pak-Iran border Taftan, the whole Thar to Nangarparkar and that too during the years when there were no proper metalled roads there and the Pak-India border Khokhrapar. All around Pakistan except Chitral. Always took an ordinary bus from Karachi to Peshwar to Swat with ordinary people. In this piece, I am writing about the tourism and the tourists from other countries, which we don
aviratam Nov 02, 2012 08:49am
Tony, the latest figures show foreign tourist arrivals closer to 18 million. What is astounding, however, is that domestic tourism now stands at a whopping 740 million. The lesson is that domestic tourism will drive the industry. Perhaps Pakistan (the article is about Pakistani tourism), should everything it can to attract its own citizens to its many beautiful spots and, indeed, even to famous mosques and religious centers to encourage travel.
naseer qureshi Nov 01, 2012 07:02pm
The writer has exaggerated the negative image of Pakistan. I agree with writer that there are problems but these problems are either not so bad or temporary in nature. Pakistan is fighting a war against extremism and terrorism. we should expect all that since every country goes through situation like this expecially during a war. Tourists cannot visit Mexica, US neighbor country, because of drug cartels and violence there. similarly, Tourist could not vist Sri Lanka becuase of sever violence and civil war there.
Khalid Nov 01, 2012 01:30pm
Couldn't agree with you more. Religious intolarence has destroyed Pakistan. I can not believe when so called educated people (with closed minds, exactly the opposite effect that education is supposed to have on people) follow the same line as if they have just come out a religious madrasa. What a shame.
Kanak Nov 01, 2012 01:01pm
It is depressing to know that even Pakistanis do not travel within their country on holiday. With the change in visa rules, many Indians thought of touring Pakistan in a group and with this type of situation may not.
PakistanWatch Nov 02, 2012 01:42am
Pakistan is not disintegrating. Pakistan is here to stay. You keep wishing and praying but those are the facts. Unsubstantiated opinion articles are jusrt that: Opinion and NOT fact.
Saeed Nov 02, 2012 02:14pm
i guess FactOnly doesn't do much fact checking
Raoul Ciao Nov 02, 2012 07:57am
i think the visa regime with India is opening up, and due to international bust in west, even SE Asia has become cheap. So, pakistanis who can afford a flight, may well find India and SE Asian neighbours good for tourism even if home is insecure due to poor law and order. Don't stop traveling !
Saeed Nov 01, 2012 01:40pm
i was in karachi couple of months ago visiting my dad from Boston.... i did not see a single 'foreigner' in the city....I too did not bring my family with me this time because of fear and lack of law and order.... My son really wanted to visit his grandfather and Pakistan but i couldn't bring him. How sad.
roquefort Nov 01, 2012 03:41pm
Couldn't agree more.Having travelled all over the world i found Pakistan the most depressing n least tolerant society in the world.I fully blame it on the extreme religious beliefs.I found even amongst the educated people the favourite topic only religion
Arkady Nov 01, 2012 02:45pm
"Those who live by the sword, eventually die by the sword" - Christ
Gary Nov 01, 2012 04:37pm
Unfortunately this is the story with most muslims. Educated or illiterate, they are all obsessed with Islam.
G.A. Nov 01, 2012 04:05pm
They are busy fighting the Pakistani army in FATA (or UATA -UnAdministered Taliban Areas).
Atif Khan Nov 01, 2012 11:58am
As usual, brilliant Abro at his best !
G.A. Nov 01, 2012 06:50pm
Hopefully when normalcy returns to Pakistan, people from around the world would want to visit this ancient land which never seems to disappoint the news networks. It is off the beaten track and is a large country with a varying landscape and a rich heritage. Sometimes negative news or propaganda is free publicity. They should not have bulldozed Bin Ladens Abbottabad house. Would've attracted tourists.
FactOnly Nov 02, 2012 01:39am
During the same time more people were murdered and raped and mugged in Boston and New York than in Karachi and Lahore.
World Traveler Nov 02, 2012 11:35am
Interesting that you should say that. In my travels I found Pakistanis the most warm, friendly and hospitable people. I suppose like attracts like.
shahzad khan Nov 01, 2012 04:41pm
fear of what bro , you want to travel ? go ahead no body will bother you anywhere. go murree.... go azad kashmir, go multan , go lahore go rawalpindi islamabad go peshawar go where ever because i was there and there is no fear as we should not fear the destiny written as it to happen , there are at least hundreds of places to go for holidays, come on you want to go to swat then vote for the people who wants to restore those parts of the country. not the people who will run after looting you and i to their masters.
aqabdulaziz Nov 02, 2012 01:35am
This is a great article and I commend Dawn for publishing such articles. But I wonder where the Difa-e-Coucil of Pakistan is. I thought they were all about defending Pakistan from all enemies. Could someone please comment on this?
Student Of Islam Nov 02, 2012 11:38am
A beautiful obsession indeed...
Molib Nov 01, 2012 10:50am
Agree with you saein
Ankush Nov 01, 2012 11:27am
Even I was quite impressed when I saw images posted by NFP in "Also Pakistan" but there is just one reason why everything is going down in Pakistan, religious intolerance. And btw that's the only thing that's going up.
Sue Sturgess Nov 02, 2012 09:28am
Every country has a share of natural beauty, but sensible tourists prefer to enjoy the beauty of those nation.s where they feel safe.
Assad Nov 03, 2012 06:15am
How do you know ? In U.S. 99% of the rape cases are reported and you know what the situation in Pakistan is. Most people are shooed away by the Police even if they want to report a mugging.
Daniyal S. M Nov 01, 2012 10:33pm
The part that is sadder is your weakness of faith. You denied your child a visit to his grandfather, and his country of origin. If you are still alive, I'm sure he would be fine here too.