TERRORISM is obviously the major factor in the death of Pakistan’s tourism industry. Why would a tourist visit a country when he knows his life could be in danger? This disappearance of tourism is one of Pakistan’s many tragedies. (American envoy for Pak-Af region Richard Holbrooke once said he knew of no country which had so many problems as Pakistan.)
Terrorism has significantly decline, but as recent tragedies have proved it is still there, especially in Balochistan, thanks to India and Afghanistan. But irrespective of that, promoting tourism is our job. We have to overcome the many hurdles in the way. One major hurdle is adequate transport. Tourists need cheap and comfortable transport. In urban area, Lahore has managed to have one, but other cities lack it. Peshawar’s rapid bus transit system is still incomplete, and Karachi’s transport scene is a big tragedy. If some tourists want to see Lahore and travels by the Lahore bus system, he will on the whole have a reasonably good travel. In Karachi, even if it is assumed to be a peaceful city, a tourist will be bewildered by the absence of a mass transit system. On my recent visit to Karachi I was shocked to see mini-buses packed to the core. There is no ventilation and people are forced to sit on bus roofs.
Islamabad is a beautiful city, but it also lacks a mass transit system. This is a matter of shame for the capital of a country with a population of more than 200 million.
Another factor militating against tourism is that, barring some areas, Pakistanis by and large are not tourism-oriented. In countries like Morocco, Egypt and Turkey the people are tourism oriented. Businesses came to revolve round tourism and handle tourists with efficiency and politeness. At best, a person in Istanbul or Cairo may be indifferent to tourists, but he will not be hostile.
However, in north, people like those in Swat and Gilgit-Baltistan are still quite friendly toward foreign tourists. Until recently, this was the case in Peshawar and around Khyber pass.
All this has changed. It is astonishing that in spite of these hurdles such is the beauty and challenge of Pakistan’s mountains that mountaineers and trekkers from many parts of the world continue to visit Pakistan.
Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2019