ISLAMABAD: Stressing the need for tapping into the ample tourism potential in the country, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday directed the authorities concerned to formulate effective laws to protect “untouched” scenic beauty.
“We have a diversity of untouched tourism sites all over the country, such as beach tourism in Balochistan and Sindh, religious tourism, mountain tourism, etc, that need to be protected once we open up new sites,” the prime minister said while addressing the Pakistan Tourism Summit-2019. The summit was also attended by several foreign travel writers.
The prime minister said that the northern areas of the country have over a hundred sites with untapped potential, adding that the government had announced a new visa regime under which foreign tourists now do not need a no-objection certificate to visit any site.
Calls for tapping tourism potential, orders crackdown against gas theft
Emphasising the need to protect the culture and traditions of local people at tourism sites though, Mr Khan also maintained that “if tourists disrespect the local customs of the tribal areas, the reaction that would follow would negatively impact tourism”.
He promised that many tribal areas of the erstwhile Fata will attract many visitors when they are opened up for tourism.
Citing personal travel experiences in Pakistan over the course of his life, the prime minister referred to the country’s tourism potential as “unmatched”, adding that the industry had great potential to generate income, employment and alleviate poverty. “No other sector in Pakistan offers returns on investment as much as tourism,” he said, pointing out that visitors could not find places in hotels to stay at during the peak season in the northern areas.
Sayeeda Warsi meets Imran
In a separate meeting, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi of the UK met Prime Minister Khan at the Prime Minister Office. Zulfiqar Bukhari, the latter’s special assistant on overseas Pakistanis, was also present during the meeting.
Sale of land
Prime Minister Khan announced that the government would sell un-utilised land to generate funds and overcome the prevailing financial crisis. He said this while presiding over a meeting on the privatisation of national entities, especially ‘sick units’. “Not only can the government deficit be reduced by selling thousands of acres of land, this can also boost economic activities,” he maintained.
In yet another meeting, Mr Khan ordered a crackdown action against those found to be involved in gas theft.
Officials of the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited informed the prime minister that the wastage of gas was causing over Rs45 billion losses to the organisation annually. “More than that is being suffered due to theft and leakages,” they said, explaining that the government was facing a loss of Rs19bn due to theft and Rs11.25bn due to leakage every year.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Khan said that the burden of all illegalities in the gas sector was put on the common man, terming this “unacceptable.” He expressed concern over illegal gas connections, and said: “A crackdown should be conducted against gas thieves and those officials of the gas department who are involved in illegal practices.”
Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2019