Posted by: Administrator | 1 August, 2006

President at inaugural ceremony of Destination Pakistan 2007

15 December 2006
 

President PML, Minister for Tourism, All the Federal Ministers and specially the forty members delegation that has come from abroad, all the tour operators and hoteliers, all those involved in the touring business, excellencies, distinguish guests and ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed a very proud privilege for me to have been offered this opportunity to inaugurate this “Visit Pakistan 2007”. I would like to congratulate, Ministry of Tourism and the Minister herself for organizing this mega event in such a wonderful way. And entertaining everyone who is here, I hope the forty members delegation that come from abroad enjoy their stay and take back very fond memories of their stay in Pakistan. 

Minister for Tourism herself amply showed or demonstrated the true potential of Pakistan. I would like to convey my personal thoughts on where we stand what we ought to be doing and what is our potential for tourism. First of all I would like to say that the Government is making all out efforts to promote tourism for its economic growth and there are several reasons why we are doing that. Firstly we all know that Tourism is a multi dollar industry. And Pakistan happens to be nowhere on the Map in spite of the tremendous potential that we have which I would like to describe. I am also told that South Asia receives only 8% of world tourist. And from this 8%, I am really shocked to see that Pakistan got 4.1% of South Asia’s share. So this situation certainly needs to improve. Tourism as I see it is a pro poor industry. It has the fastest trickle down to the grass root level to the people, and it involves huge employment generation potential. And this happens to go very much in line with the Government’s strategy of poverty alleviation and job creation, and lastly may I say why we need to encourage tourism is the fact that the economic benefits from tourism reach out to the people in the remotest areas of Pakistan who may be happened to be the most poorest.

Therefore ladies and gentlemen the Government’s policy of encouraging tourism and backing it up all the way. I personally feel and I have said many times that Pakistan is the ideal destination fro tourism. Unfortunately it is the best kept secret of Pakistan. We need to give out the secret to the world and show the world that Pakistan is much more, much different than what it is perceived outside.

That the reality of Pakistan is very different from the perceptions that have been created in the outside world, our country Pakistan is full of diversities and variety and I would like to put across in my own form, look at the temperatures in Pakistan, there are few countries in the world which have temperatures ranging from + 52 centigrade to -50 centigrade. This is the span of temperatures in Pakistan. So you have all the weathers, all the temperature extremes in Pakistan. Look at the terrain of Pakistan, which is ideal for adventure tourism, and when we talk about terrain I would like to innumerate the mountains of Pakistan. We have the best mountains in the world. We have the K2, which [is] supposed to be the second highest mountain of the world. We have the Nanga Parbat which is called the Killer Mountain. We have the fourteen highest peaks of the world in Pakistan. We have the largest number of glaciers in Pakistan outside the polar region. Therefore this makes an ideal venue for tracking and rock climbing. If you look at the deserts in Pakistan, we have the inhospitable deserts. The Thar desert, the Cholistan desert, which is an attraction to many of our brothers from Gulf and the Middle East. If you look at our coastline, it’s a virgin coastline, unexplored. Now we have made the Coastal Highway. We [have] opened this coastline from Karachi to Gawadar, and we are going to extend it to Jiwani.

If you travel on this coastline, you will see the most beautiful sites and the sea which is open for any kind of water sports for tourism attraction. In the center, we have the plains of Punjab, the rivers; the biggest canal network of the world exists in Pakistan. Ladies and gentlemen this makes the terrain of Pakistan. Pakistan happens to be the cradle of three religions. Therefore it attracts religious tourism. Buddasim, if you talk of Taxila and Takht-Bahi, this is the source of Buddasim. If you talk of Hinduism, the Katas temple, near Kalar Kahar, it is said that it is the second most revered temple in Hinduism.

If you talk of Sikhism, the Nankana Sahib and Punjaba Sahab in Hasan Abdal, these two sites are the most revered temples of Sikhs and now of course an Islamic Republic of Pakistan. So you see the variety of religious tourism here in Pakistan. If you look at our heritage, ladies and gentlemen, it gets back to the oldest time; it should attract heritage tourism to Pakistan. We have Mehar Garh, which I think is seven thousand years BC, and it is the oldest known settlement, this is in Balochistan. We have the Indus Valley Civilizations, Mohenjodaro and Harrapa. If you look at our history, historical tourism, we have the Alexander the Great who came here and remnants of Alexander Army today still exist in the form of Kalash tribe, in the Kalash valley in the Chitral region. They are still there. We have the colonial era. Many remnants, we have the Churchil Post here in Malakand area. Many other graves and many other monuments of the colonial period, then of course we have the Mughal structures, Mughal monuments. Lahore was the Mughal capital at one time.

The other attractions of course are the KaraKoram Highway itself, leading to border with China. Khunjarab Pass, this is said to be the eighth wonder of the world, when we made it with the Chinese. And in this region, also in the northern region, in Chitral, we have the special attraction of the Shandur Polo tournament. This tournament is at the height of 13000 feet above the sea level. And it’s not the normal you see. It’s polo with no hold bar. There is no referee and there is no judge. There is a ball and there are five players on each side. Continuous gallop, continuous horsemanship no stopping of the game at all and no fouls etc, this is at the height of 13000 feet, the Shandoor pass, which is surrounded by the most beautiful mountains, snow capped and lakes link by streams. I always ask a question myself that why the tourism is not in Pakistan. I came to certain conclusions and I would like to give this out what we need to do and what we have already done. Firstly, Government must facilitate tourism and we are not doing that and now I am glad that Government has taken lot of interest and actions now. And so I would like to appreciate the efforts of the Minister to open up the sector of Tourism. We have now the most liberal visa policy and regime. The number of tourists’ friendly countries has been increased from 2 to 24. And out of these countries, we do give visa on arrival. Therefore the Government is doing a lot and what the Government is doing for normalization its relations with India will I think attract Million of tourists from India itself to Pakistan. The other issue that publicity alone is not enough, there are certain steps required to facilitate tourism. Number one step that I thought always was infrastructure development; we have to have good airports, where tourists do not get stranded. And good aircrafts leading them to airports and we have to have connectivity by road. Therefore we started this effort about four years back in 2001 or 2002. I am very proud to say that we have the four valleys here, one is the Chitral valley, Gilgit, Hunza and Skardu valley. And the Kaghan valley, I thought we must interconnect all these valleys. That is exactly what we are doing. First of all leading into the Gilgit and Hunza valley is the Kara Korum highway itself. Leading into the Chitral valley, is a road but now we are making the Lawari tunnel so that anyone can go to Chitral, twelve months in the year. Get into vehicle and drive to Chitral. Then we need interconnectivity between these four valleys. And I am very proud to say that we have linked Gilgit to Chitral through the road going through the Shandur pass. But we have a metal road leading to the edges of the Shandoor pass on both ends. So today you can drive in a vehicle from Chitral to Gilgit and switch from one valley to the other. We are linking the Kaghan valley to the Gilgit and Hunza valley through a pass over the mountains. We have also created an additional link between Gilgit and Skardu valley, through a road which is breathtaking. If anyone travels on it, it takes you to Astore which is at foothills of Nanga Parbat then it goes on to Chillam which is in the foothills of the Burzal Pass, 14500 feet and from Chillam you go on to Dosai Plains. A plain which is 1400 feet high, with beautiful lakes and streams and then they lead on to Skardu. This is the beauty of that road. Having created access to the valleys and linked the valleys through laterals we have created an environment where we attract tourists. Who should be the tourist? It should be the Pakistani tourist who will lead the way. And I appeal to the people of Pakistan, in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and other big cities, see your own country. Know your own country and stop going abroad, this is a beautiful country which you need to know first of all.

It is only when the Pakistani tourist go that it will attract private investment, like hotels, motels, petrol pumps, and other utilities and facilities, like toilets and bathrooms. These facilities should be created by the private enterprise. Then I would like to add and I am very glad to say that this calendar of events in 2007 is very attractive. Otherwise I would suggest that just like the Dakkar Ralley that came us all over the world. We must have a rally here in the desert, then other than the desert, we can have a rally and can call the rally on the top of the world, that is through the mountains. And we can select any route whether it is Chitral going to Skardu, or Hunza going to Skardu, or Kaghan going to above Babu Sar pass to Hunza. We can select the route. But this will be the rally on the top of the world. May be this would be highest rally of the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, this should be the sequential progress towards making Pakistan a tourist attractive destination. And then the Government’s responsibility of course is ensuring law and order so that people feel safe when they come to Pakistan. So these travel advisories against [us] be removed. That is the responsibility of the Government and we will try our best. Then comes the publicity part, because once we publicize we must deliver. We can deliver when we have all these facilities in a big way.

And as the Minister has said, this is a humble start. Yes indeed this is a start. We cannot imagine that next year we get millions of tourists into Pakistan. I know there is potential; we have to only put our act together to maximize that potential. And bring people all over the world and Pakistanis into our own areas. Let us enjoy our own country and then attract people from abroad. In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to congratulate the Ministry of tourism and the Minister for tourism for this wonderful show this year of celebration of destination Pakistan 2007 Let me commit that the Government is committed to backing up in supporting tourism in the future. With these words, ladies and gentlemen, at the end I would like to declare the year 2007 as the Destination Pakistan 2007, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.

Pakistan Paindabad.

 

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