ISLAMABAD, Sept 24: Federal Minister for Tourism Nilofar Bakhtiar has said that Pakistan will host “World Buddhist Assembly” next year.

Inaugurating Pakistan’s booth at JATA fair, the minister said the decision to hold Buddhist assembly was made in a meeting with the visiting Buddhist delegation. She also declared that 2007 would be the “Year of Tourism”.

According to a statement received here on Sunday, commenting on the tour advisory in certain countries, the minister affirmed that ‘not a single tourist had ever been attacked in Pakistan’.

She said the proverbial hospitality of Pakistanis and respect for elderly people was additional attractions for family tourism. “Moreover, Pakistan is a shopping paradise for the female tourists who can buy colourful fabrics and beautiful designs of jewellery at very cheap rates,” she added.

Ms Bakhtiar said the Pakistan government relaxed visa requirements for Japanese tourists and now visa could be obtained on arrival at airports as well.

Balochistan Tourism Minister Syed Sher Jan Baloch, Secretary Culture Jalil Abbas, PTDC managing director, and a 19-member cultural troupe are accompanying the minister on her visit to Japan to attract Japanese tourists.

The federal tourism minister said the present government was well aware of the importance of tourism industry as its promotion would generate socio-economic activities in various parts, particularly far-flung and under-developed areas of the country.

“That is why the government is focussing on providing communication and hotel facilities in areas of tourism importance, so that tourists could have an easy access to these worth seeing places,” she said. Ms Bakhtiar affirmed that the government had worked out a comprehensive tourism policy to sell the tourism potential of the country abroad.

She added that duties on import of hotel equipment and special concessions on foreign investment in hotel industry helped in promoting tourism in Pakistan.

“Pakistan is a destination of special interest for travellers and tourists”, she claimed.

The minister said: “It is a country with a variety of climates, high mountains, snow-capped peaks, green and fertile plains, forests, valleys, deserts, beautiful lakes and rivers.”

She pointed out that Pakistan also inherits a rich cultural and religious heritage of Indus valley civilisation, Gandhara civilisation and Mughal era architecture which is a great source of attraction for foreign tourists.

“Our mountain wonderland offers the most exciting ranges in the world, namely the Karakorams, the Himalayas, the Hinduskush and the Pamirs.” She said that out of the 14 peaks in the world that rise above 8,000 metres, five nestled in Pakistan.

The minister said Pakistan offered unique attractions like the most breathtaking valleys and lakes anywhere and pockets of landlocked primitive civilisations like the Kalash in Chitral Valley.

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