Many countries have created a presence on the world map by becoming great tourist destinations. Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Maldives have risen from slums to become developed nations. The post 9/11 wave of terrorism and suicide attacks in the whole country in general and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in particular has badly affected tourism industry in Pakistan over the past 13 years. The targeted killing of nine foreign tourists at the base camp of Nanga Parbat in June 2013 has dimmed the last small hope that the country had of attracting tourism.

Let alone foreign tourists, we have even not paid serious attention to facilitate our own domestic tourists. There is a large number of Pakistanis who are interested in exploring their own homeland but due to lack of information, poor tourism infrastructure and high cost of domestic air travel, boarding and lodging coupled with poor standard of services at tourist spots has discouraged them. Most of the people who can afford travel to Dubai or Far East for holidays instead of visiting places in Pakistan. This has not only reduced the opportunity of earning precious foreign exchange for the country but has also adversely impacted on the livelihoods of thousands of poor people across the country.

We have very low ranking among international nations who boast of tourism, this low ranking is not because we do not have much to offer but mainly due to lack of political will to develop and promote tourism in the country. Ironically, the previous government totally ignored this sector during its five years term and now Pakistan is almost a forgotten destination on the world tourism map.

To be successful in the tourism Pakistan has to overcome the law and order situation which has not only crippled the economic and social life of the people but has also contributed to portray a negative image of Pakistan as a tourist destination. After the 18th Amendment there is lack of coordination at national level to promote tourism. We need to establish a National Tourism Board by involving all key stakeholders from public and private sectors and to adopt a clear policy to create an environment for tourism in Pakistan and to promote tourism in domestic and foreign markets on an emergency basis. It is hoped that in 2014, the government of PML-N will take serious steps to give much needed support to the dying tourism industry of Pakistan.

AFTAB-UR-REHMAN RANA,

Islamabad, January 2.