MIRPUR (AJK) - All is set to hold three-day national-level Kashmir conference on archaeology in Mirpur today (Friday) to unearth, preserve and rehabilitate the ancient pieces of centuries old cultural heritage in various parts of Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK).

The conference is being held to promote the tourism industry in the AJK which awaits local and foreign investment in the tourism sector.

Highlighting the salient features of the national congregation on archaeology, to be first of its own kind in the ancient history of the Jammu Kashmir state, Secretary Tourism, Information Technology and Archaeology Ms. Midhat Shehzad told this Correspondent here on Thursday that the conference will last for three days with prime focus to preserve and secure the ancient asset of archaeology in this part (AJK) of the Himalayan state of Jammu & Kashmir. She said that AJK Departments of Tourism / Archaeology and Information have given final tourches to hold the Conference in befitting manner.

AJK President Sardar Masood Khan will inaugurate the moot, to be first of its own kind, being held under the auspices of the above two institutions of Azad Jammu Kashmir with prime focus not only to attract the intending local and foreign entrepreneur to move for making investment in the tourism sector in AJK through restoring the ancient / historical sites including centuries old Ram Kot fort, Mangla fort in Mirpur district, Baghser fort in Bhimbher district and Muzaffarabad fort besides the places of worships in Mirpur division and other parts of Azad Jammu Kashmir besides to attract the tourist from across the country besides particularly from Pakistani and Kashmiri diaspora inhibiting abroad, especially in the United Kingdom, they added.

AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan will be the chief guest at the concluding session of the grand conference to be held on January 6. The concluding session of the moot will be followed by a detailed site-seeing trip by the participants of the conference to the ancient sites in Mirpur division depicting thousands of years old cultural heritage of the Jammu & Kashmir state including Ramkot fort, Baghser fort and the identical historic sites on currently the dried-bed of the Mangla lake including mausoleum of Hazrat Meeran Shah, the temple and other identical historic places, they added.

The AJK Secretary Information  and Tourism  said that Azad Jammu Kashmir government  has decided to observe  2019 as the year of tourism under the spirit and prime focus to turn AJK as the most  attractive hub of tourism following the scenic sites of the liberated territory enriched with the huge natural potential.

“The state government has kicked off steps to observe 2019 as Tourism Year”, she said. Ceremonies to this direction are being held in the State in line with vision of AJK Prime Minister as soon as the New Year started, she added.

Midhat Shehzad continued that major ceremony to mark 2019 as year of tourism in AJK will he held at Kohala, the entry point to the capital city of Azad Jammu Kashmir. Secretary Tourism and IT said it would attract tourist from across the country including AJK towards the tourism potential and its significance in AJK. She said public private partnership was essential to fully exploit the potential of tourism in the State. She said that as per vision of Prime Minister tourism in coordination with local community and AJK government would be promoted all over the State in 2019.

She believed that with the promotion of tourism AJK which already has lots of breathtakingly lovely sights and landscapes, would be introduced and highlighted all over the world. It would not only generate the State income significantly but also create employment opportunities for the youth, she remarked. She asserted Prime Minister Haider and Information Minister Mushtaq Minhas were paying special attention on promotion of tourism.

Midhat said it is an open secret that there is enormous potential of tourism in AJK which needs to be highlighted properly at national and international level. She asked the local population to cooperate with the tourists so that they get back with good image of the State.

The Secretary Info admitted that the unemployment ratio in the state was more than provinces of the country which could be overcome to some extent by promoting tourism. The relation of local community and government would have to be strengthened for this purpose, she maintained. She said government was taking necessary measures to provide maximum facilities to the tourists and added that with the introduction of smart card tourists would not face security or other problems.

Meanwhile DG Tourism Peerzada and AJK PID Director General  Azhar Iqbal told reporters here  Thursday that leading archaeological experts from across the country including AJK, besides  senior officials of the concerned institutions of the governments of Pakistan and AJK, leading experts of the field of tourism and the archaeologists from various parts of the country including AJK  including AJK Minister for Tourism Mushtaq Minhas,  Ms. Midhat Shahzad, AJK Secretary for Tourism & Archaeology, Dr. Ghani ur Rehman from Quaid-e-Azam University, Dr. Shakirullah Jan and Muzaffar Ahmed from Hazara University Mansehra, Dr. Muhammad Hamid from and Asif Mahmood Rana from University of Punjab, Dr. Ijaz Khan from Mardar  AWK University, Dr. Abdul Rehman, DPI Colleges, AJK, Research Scholar and expert of Tourism and Archaeology and retired DG Tourism AJK Dr. Mohsin Shakeel, Dr. Gul Raheem from Peshawar University, Prof. Dr. Rukhsana Said Hassan Khan, Assistant Prof. of AJK University, Ms. Asma Ibrahim Director State Bank Museum, Ahtishaam Aziz Research Officer Lahore Museum, Samiullah from Peshawar University, Brigadier Adnan from Army Museum Rawalpindi, Dr. Zainul Abideen Prof at Metropolitan Academy of Art and Design, Dr. Adil Shah from Hazara University, Ms. Syeda Rubiqa Abdi Bukhari from Punjab University, Ms. Fatiha Hamid M. Phil Scholar from Mirpur, Mian Atique Ahmed, Secretary General Museum Association of Pakistan,  Aftab ur Rehman  President Sustainable Tourism Development Foundation Pakistan, DGPR Raja Azhar Iqbal and the DG Tourism and Archaeology of AJK Peerzada Ershad Ahmed would deliver  their respective papers enriched with their expert opinion over the bright potential of tourism, preservation of the sites of archaeology through their rehabilitation for the attracting of the local and foreign tourist particularly comprising millions of UK-based Kashmiri diaspora including Pakistani and Kashmiri expatriates living in various European and middle east countries.