MUZAFFARABAD: The Tourism Development Corporation of Pakistan (TDCP) is contemplating launching ‘religious tourism’ to attract tourists from across the world to their revered sites in Pakistan.

This was stated by TDCP managing director Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor after separate meetings on Friday with the chief secretary Sikandar Sultan Raja and tourism secretary Mansoor Qadir Dar on the promotion of tourism in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

Mr Ghafoor pointed out that since Pakistan was home to the most reverent sites of three major religions in the region – Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism – their followers across the globe had always shown eagerness to visit these places without any hassle, and with as much frequency as possible.

“We are doing our stuff to prepare a complete road map to facilitate them… This will earn us foreign exchange on the one hand and promote the soft image of our country on the other,” he said.Mr Ghafoor said he had also discussed with Khawaja Saad Rafique, minister for railways, the possibility of running a ‘religious train’ between Pakistan and India to facilitate devotees on both sides.

The TDCP chief said he also planned to bottle the water from Punja Sahib, one of the three holiest sites in the Sikh religion, for the Sikh community living anywhere in the world, because they treated the water at Punja Sahib reverently.

Similarly, he said, the Hindus equally revered the water of a lake in the Katas Raj temples, near Chakwal, as they believed that the lake was filled with the tears of Shiva, one of the principal deities of Hinduism, and thus had magical powers.

Mr Ghafoor, who is a former Punjab minister and a close aide to the Sharif family, said he was quite hopeful that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would back every practicable suggestion to promote tourism in the country.

Earlier, in his meeting with AJK officials, he told them that the TDCP was taking steps to establish tent villages, chairlift, cable car and helicopter services in AJK with the cooperation of the private sector. He said resources constraints would be overcome by maximising participatory approach in promotion of tourism in the country.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2017

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