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Road block

Apathy and indifference rather than militancy spell the death of tourism, believes Azmat Ansari.

Brown, green and blue.
Brown, green and blue.
Tourism in Pakistan is a victim of our lack of commitment to realise its full potential. It has suffered because of our utter indifference, lack of innovative skills, poor marketing, poor motivation, poor campaigning and lack of vision.

Pakistan is home to a unique heritage; the discovery of 7,000-year-old dentist’s drill from Mehrgarh shows that this was the land from where dentistry began. Figurines excavated from the same place suggest that it is also the birthplace of wigs and hairstylists for women. Yet one never sees even a word in the media on any of these topics.

Our indifference to whatever we have is taking its toll. Of the 40 acres of Jahangir’s tomb in Lahore, 10 or more have remained unutilised for the last 200 years, old fountains don’t play, walkways are dishevelled and land grabbers have their eyes on the land within the four walls of the tomb. Shoddy maintenance of Shalimar Gardens is being noticed. “It is clean one week and untidy the next — empty bottles of water, boxes of fruit juices and plastic bags litter the premises,” visitors from Karachi to Lahore complain. Do we have any kind of working manual and standard operating procedures for ensuring the cleanliness and maintenance of our monuments and gardens? Probably not.

Eco-tourism which has huge potential in all the four provinces is also neglected. Whatever goes by the name of eco-tourism is insufficient. Has anyone tried to publicise the fact that tulips grow wild in the deserts and hills of Pakistan? Pakistan and particularly the climate of Karachi is ideal for growing orchids. No one has tried to benefit from the fact that more than 2,500 kinds of flowering trees and bushes are found in Pakistan. More kinds can be grown in all the provinces.

Even during wars, people with innovative skills have sold excursions to people who were very happy to take them; for example, delegations, even from Pakistan, visited Sri Lanka during the war with Tamils. I was a member of one such delegation. Tourist guides casually explained to the visitors that sandbags and bunkers at and around the airport were precautionary measures. The fighting was in Jaffna, which did not affect any tourist visiting the rest of Sri Lanka.

We have a similar situation in Pakistan, but there is no mechanism in place to explain to tourists that reported incidents of violence don’t mean that the whole country is on fire. A couple from Canada during a dinner arranged for them by my brother in Karachi said, “A great injustice is being done to all of you. Pakistan is 100pc opposite of what it is being made to out be.” People coming here from Britain, the US and Europe have said similar things in different words.

We do not exploit or promote even the most amazing events which would draw tourists from around the world. The discovery of megalithic graves in Gulistan-i-Jauhar some time back conclusively proved that Karachi was visited 4,000 years ago by carriers of articles of commerce, coming from Central Asia for onward shipment to the Arab and African countries, yet the discovery was not given due importance.

The only surviving evidence is a handmade pitcher that was unearthed during the excavation which was once displayed as the ‘Object of the Month’ by the National Museum. However, the object of the greatest archaeological significance was a rock on which the ancient people of Karachi had carved a channel with the aid of chert (hard, sharp stone) blades. It was a very big channel, four inches deep and eight feet long, maybe one of the longest channels in the world carved by chert blades.

The rock was worth its weight in gold but it was destroyed by dynamite by the owner of the land who was afraid that the government might confiscate his land. I know all this because I had organised the excavation myself, while a very able archaeologist Dr S.M. Ashfaq directed it. Both of us worked for free — I as a facilitator and Dr Ashfaq as an expert.

One fails to understand why historians and authors of books are shy of saying that concrete evidence has been found that shows that the history of Karachi goes back at least 4,000 years. If Unesco has failed to take notice of this huge discovery, our ministry of tourism should have campaigned to make relevant organisations realise what we had discovered in Karachi.

Our indifferent attitude is responsible for the lack of development of a star product for tourism — saltwater sports fishing. Millions of dollars worth of foreign exchange can be earned through the promotion of this sport. Water sports are neglected; active snorkelling is being done in Karachi but the number of participants is not more than 200. There are only two or three promoters of this sport.

Apathy is apparent in the very maps designed for guiding the tourists. “Many of the maps are old and outdated,” says the public relations officer of a five-star hotel. We fail to cash in some of our obvious advantages.

The present number of tourists can be doubled. Five-star hotels complain that their initiatives for doing something for promoting tourism seldom get a proper response.

Comments (35) Closed

Agha Ata Jun 23, 2013 07:13am

And tourists ask: "Where are the killers and kidnappers?"

Rizan Jun 23, 2013 07:37am

Thanks Azmat for taking your time to write this article as these days we can only see bad news about Pakistan.

Beside advert and others those who still want to visit PK are facing hell of bureaucracy in getting their visa specially those in USA so I may request down news to highlight this issue as well so at least those people who would like to travel to Gilgit Baltistan which is safe area can visit there at least which will also help the local economy as well.

A Jun 23, 2013 07:42am

It would be nice to post some pics of the places, or provide links to them. So, I am curious to know which place they have shown on the mainpage. Is it Indus Valley Civilization?

Paul Jun 23, 2013 08:00am

When will you Pakis realize that the rich heritage and culture of thousands of years old, belonged to India and Hindus, you have consciously tried as a nation of 'muslims' to distance yourself from that amazingly rich old culture in the name of 'Islam' and always unfortunately looked for the glory of the past from the 'Arab' world! Till you come to your senses and accept India as your true motherland you will be a lost culture on the path of disintegration.

faraz Jun 23, 2013 08:54am

It is clean one week and untidy the next

Jamil Ahmed Jun 23, 2013 08:56am

Ten tourists killed already in Gilgit today. Expect no more tourists here from now.

Timour Jun 23, 2013 09:38am

Very ironic that this article was published today when ten tourists were also murdered in cold blood...guess this clearly answers the question. The tourists are smart and care about their lives and would rather explore the millions of other things the world has to offer and where there is lower risk of deliberate fatal incidents.

C.R.Shiva Shankae Jun 23, 2013 09:43am

it is wonderful to read about Meharghar, there are many archeological sites in south asia and most of them are neglected. We are a people not very aware of our history. We need white people to highlight them for us. Only then our governments look at them.

I am sure that Pakistan must be a very beautyful nation with its mountainous regions and rugged country side but it is galling to read about Shias being bombed all the time in the name of religion. I hope that I can see ypor country one day and wishe that your country prospers and peace prevails.

Polpot Jun 23, 2013 09:51am

From Todays Dawn +++++++++++ ISLAMABAD: Gunmen stormed a hotel in Nanga Parbat, a remote part of Northern Pakistan, on Sunday and killed 10 foreign tourists, police and security officials said.

shiva Jun 23, 2013 10:00am

Answer to the question - just read what happened at Nanga Parbhat today!! So sad.

Ravi Ingale from University of Pune Jun 23, 2013 10:07am

If Tourist are getting killed in their Hotel Rooms, then How would they come there??

World's first Indian University "Takshashila (Taxila)" ruined by urbanization.

World's one of the First Hindu's Indus valley civilization in Harrapa and Mohenjodedo, where present time people are starting to live and built there homes.

Indus river delta region where a small city Karachi was there whose population was just 20,000 in 1947, right now there are more than 25 million people are living.

Now what else is remaining in Pakistan for showing to Tourists??

Honest Man Jun 23, 2013 10:50am

Question: where are the tourists? Answer: They are afraid of being killed. 10 tourists got killed today in Pakistan. Why administration cannot provide safety?

John Jun 23, 2013 10:53am

It is very unfortunate that below this article there is a news of 10 foreigners being killed!!

Abbas Jun 23, 2013 11:19am

Today's attack and death of 10 tourists explains, that "Where are the tourists?
Their is no doubt that their are amazing places to visit, however the country is not safe for the locals, let alone visiting tourist.

It doesn't take a geniuses tourist to work out the safety and security

Stuti Jun 23, 2013 11:32am

Tourism will take off when you people take pride in your pre Islamic heritage and teach your children the same. How can you sell a thing to outsiders when you yourself do not take pride in it.

Luke Jun 23, 2013 11:36am

I just now read a news item that "gunmen-kill-nine-foreign-tourists-and-their-guide-in-northern-pakistan". What chance do you think that foreign tourists will flock to your country? At the moment Pakistan = Lawlessness. At a more practical level, I would look for web information telling me which is a 100% valued tourist destination.

Fareed Jun 23, 2013 11:36am

I think that we need to look inwards and promote local Tourism, there are hundred and thousands of Pakistani's who don't even know much of Pakistan and its historical/tourist sites. Rather then relaying on foreign tourism we should attract people from within the county, and provide this as a recreation opportunity.

Garib Manus Jun 23, 2013 11:38am

"Where are the tourists?" I guess, the events near the Nanga Parbat in Gilgit-Baltistan should explain it.

Garib Manus Jun 23, 2013 11:39am

"Where are the tourists?" I guess the events near the Nanga Parbat in Gilgit-Baltistan should explain it.

sunil Jun 23, 2013 11:58am

As per your defination, you dont have any history except islamic. That's all what you are saying in this article is all Hindu history. Accept that proudly, otherwise dont put your claim.

Abhishek Nath Jun 23, 2013 12:24pm

We are subject to this all over the subcontinent, apathy and corruption are only part of the problem, it is up to us as citizens of our countries to recognize our cultural heritage and proudly display it

naeem Jun 23, 2013 12:23pm

Where are the tourists? I think they are lying dead near Nanga Parbat.. At least we know where they are now.

Karim Shah Jun 23, 2013 12:29pm

someone Jun 23, 2013 12:55pm

Accepting the cultural heritage means accepting something which no one in this can digest.... It's next to impossible....

ishfaq Jun 23, 2013 01:07pm

so what we dont have tourists...we have lot of terrorists.. :)

akhtar Jun 23, 2013 01:17pm

In the same newspaper , there is a article about 9 foreigners killed in a safe area. Example of Sri Lanka has been given, Sri Lanka was a very popular tourist destination. This is not something if we are honest Pakistan has ever been. Sri Lanka's tourist industry was severely effected by the war and it is starting to recover. Even Pakistani's are hesitant to visit the country specially those who have foreign wives and children who were born and raised abroad. Buisness meetings take place in Dubai rather than Karachi,. We need to have law and order first and then work on infrastructure so we can improve internal tourism. Only then it would be meaningful to attract significant numbers of foreign tourists

Is at Jun 23, 2013 01:43pm

Problem is all this per dates Islam and all of us came from Arabia so we have no link or relationship with this.this belongs to in Hindu culture not ours

b Jun 23, 2013 02:00pm

all past Hindu and Buddhist history is wiped out , now to portray an Arab culture,why should anyone want to visit ? if at all Eco-tourism is a good option in the foothills---- barring the Taliban rampant there.

Claire Jun 23, 2013 02:04pm

I spent several years in Pakistan, living and working. It is an amazing country and indeed, it has great potentials of many kinds (unfortunately, those potentials are not positive only). The country is incredibly rich - in good and evil, both. Thus any bad events touch me deeply, as I feel with the people and the country. But there cannot be any tourism till there is not a basic level of security. Pakistanis are scared to travel within their own country, those who have relatives abroad are scared to invite them, business partners are met in UAE... There are far too many cases of kidnapping, targeted killings or just random violence. What a pity, my beloved Pakistan!

Dhammi Jun 23, 2013 02:08pm

@Polpot: Good and capable ,responsible also Ali Sher, a senior police officer

Dhammi Jun 23, 2013 02:06pm

@faraz: No you care ISLAM

Meurig Hainge Jun 23, 2013 02:11pm

The sad event near Nanga Parbat does not detract from the validity of Azmat Ansari's comments. Many years ago, I had the privilege of visiting the Northern Territories. As a first time visitor, knowing very little of culture and less of history, it was enough just to be in that magnificent environment. But a deeper knowledge of the culture and history would have added substantially to the experience. Perhaps a new handbook is called for, in Urdu and English. Could Azmat Ansari be the one to write it?

Shoaib Jun 23, 2013 02:56pm

What you have to say about the killing of 9 foreigners at Fairy Meadows.

imtiaz Jun 23, 2013 03:03pm

the government and people of pakistan are not keen in preserving and promoting the tourism in pakistan.the reasons are followings,,,1)government never reserved sufficient amount for tourism industry.....the maintenace of tourists points is negelcted.2)civil society and media also shows indifference to the growth of tourism in the country,,,thats why tourism is given less projection in media.3)internal or local tourism failed to flourish due to poor communication networks,lack of infrastructure and basic facilities at destination points.4)absence of innovation due to weak enterprenure skills and abject illeteracy and poverty particularly in areas famous for tourism 5)poor law and order due to extremism and terrorism has been also keeping local and foreign tourists away from visiting beautiful northren areas of pakistan.

imtiaz Jun 23, 2013 03:37pm

i agree with blogger