“… and miles to go before I sleep”
When it comes to promoting tourism, Pakistanis have long been slumbering. I wonder why this has always been mistreated by our people and of course the governments. Pakistan is no stranger to the kindness of Mother Nature and thus houses some of the most interesting wonders found in the wild and many jewels of the past and present. We have natural beauty and world class monuments and heritage sites depicting the love of nature, history and glory of the past.
Which brings me to my question: what is the use of these historical sites and natural beauty when there are no tourists? In my recent visit to the Northern Areas of Pakistan I was saddened to see the mismanagement and deserted beauty. We lack proper tourist resorts, spots and recreational facilities. I happened to enjoy the snowfall up in the north but had it been some other country the place would have been over flooded with tourists.
What’s the reason?
Well, the roads.
For one thing, other than the Express Way to Murree, work on infrastructure (specifically our roads) is extremely poor. The Government is spending well in developing road networks in many cities – even where it’s not needed – but not a single road is being developed in the north.
How do you expect families to travel to those places? Who would travel by road to Sawat? We’d think a thousand times about embarking on such an expedition.
Let me give you an example: Nathia Gali, one of the known places but the road and facilities are appalling. Who knows about Garhi Habibullah in the north while travelling to Muzaffrabad? No one – though this valley is heaven on earth.
And once you get there…
If I think about the existing tourist spots a lot needs to be improved. Roads, infrastructure, restrooms, signs, quality food and hygienic environments – they’re all missing elements. Parks, lakes, valleys and mountain tops could all serve as best tourist points, but only if they are developed and made accessible for the people with facilities like small eating spots, washrooms, parking facilities and souvenir shops.
I see Lahore: in a few years the streets and chowks of Walled City of Lahore developed as tourists’ spots with thousands of foreign and local tourists frequenting the place. The greater Iqbal Park, Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque got new colors of life. This is something that existed already and a government servant uplifted those areas by beautifying them in a new style and making them available for the public at large. Miracles have been made in the Capital of Pakistan, Islamabad. The Lake View Park, Monal Restaurant, Said Pur Village, the roads and highways all have added life to the no go areas of Islamabad. This was the contribution of Kamran Lashari. In my opinion all these initiatives reflect the love of the man for his country. I think this man should be tried in declining areas by the government now. Many hills, valleys, open spaces, mountains and parks are waiting for attention. If not Lashari than maybe a similar person with the same spirit and brain is needed for these places.
Why is tourism so low on the totem pole of priorities?
Tourism in Pakistan is dying because of two reasons. The wrong image casting by media (as a terrorist country) and the other reason is under projection of tourist places. Our people go abroad for holidays but has anyone thought why the beauty of our country is being ignored? I request all my media friends to write on and show more and more the beauty and heritage of Pakistan. It is need of the hour and like many other third world countries we need to make country tourist friendly. Let’s not bound the tourism to Lahore Fort and Katas Raj mode locations, we need to show up the Kirthar range that stretches from Sindh to Balochistan, Mubarak Village Karachi, the Sphinx and Princess of Hope in Balochistan, Gorak Hill, Trango Towers in Gilgit Baltistan, Khewra Salt Mines, mud volcanoes in Balochistan, and the Makli. The same attention to be given to the north like Shogran, Meran Jani, green fields of Lalazar, glaciers and snow lakes, Neelum Valley, Mansehra, Naltar valley, Gojal Valley, Rama Meadow, Paye, Ayun and Bamburet Valley, White Palace Swat and the list will continue.
I think the government, taking on board some private sector individuals, should form a body to work on the promotion and development of these areas. Our government should focus more on promoting these area on social media which the most effective modern communication tool. Also, proper information centres and web portals should be developed in all these areas to respond to all queries of the tourists. I hope if this is achieved to some extent, tourism will no doubt be the most powerful industry in Pakistan.