ISLAMABAD Handicrafts of Murree hills are an important part of the countrys tourism products and there is a lot of potential to develop the local handicrafts industry both to improve the tourism experience and develop local economics, said Dr Allah Bukhsh Malik, Managing Director of the Punjab Small Industries Corporation, while addressing a seminar 'Crafts of the Northern Punjab as chief guest. The seminar was arranged here Saturday at Heritage Museum, Lok Virsa, Shakarparian. About 100 participants including craft experts, craft promoters, craft entrepreneurs, craft lovers, museum experts and other people engaged in the preservation of crafts heritage took part in the seminar. The objective of the seminar was to introduce the crafts of Murree and other areas in northern Punjab with a view to promote and project them in the entire Punjab province in particular and rest of the country in general. The seminar also aimed to protect and promote the interests of artisans and to revive the traditional skills and their craftsmanship by exporting it in an international market as the result of which artisans may have a life of greater dignity. A display-cum-sale of eight crafts from queen of hills - Murree including basketry, gabba, namda, embroidery, wood-carvings, papier mache and animal skin crafts were arranged to mark the occasion. The Managing Director of the Punjab Small Industries Corporation Dr Allah Bukhsh Malik stressed the need for the promotion of traditional crafts of hilly areas of Punjab in partnership with other government and non-government organisation. He said that the crafts produced in Murree using traditional method and local available materials are very unique which can be a source of significant income and may also create many job opportunities for locals. Executive Director Lok Virsa Khalid Javaid presented a paper in the seminar on Crafts of Northern Punjab - the land of fragrance beauty in which he not only talked in detail about crafts of the area, but also shed light on the problems confronting craftspeople in continuance of their centuries-old craft traditions inherited from father-to-son. He also suggested a number of important initiatives for the promotion of the craft heritage, which is threatened to vanish, and for the uplift and betterment of craftspeople. Khalid Javaid explained in his paper that the crafts represent a valuable material heritage, which forms a tangible part of our historical and contemporary culture, in fact, it is considered more cohesive and permeating in human relationship than even language. The history of folk arts and crafts of Pakistan goes back to 5,000 years to the Indus Valley Civilisation and Pakistan is noted for some of the most varied and beautiful handicrafts of the world, he said. The major crafts of this particular region include woodwork, weaving, basketry, stone carving, lacquer art, embroidery, shoe making, comb-making, block printing, pottery, he said adding that many of the crafts are disappearing due to modernisation and less daily use of traditional crafts. Also, a major factor in the growing extinction of crafts is the lack of innovation and creativity in product design and lack of designing and product development facilities, he mentioned. Giving his suggestions, Khalid Javaid proposed for establishment of associations for different crafts, affiliation of art students with craft areas, training for craftspeople in skills development, product designing, setting up of craft centres at different villages, provision of good quality raw materials to artisans and launching micro financing schemes for craftspeople all over the country. Well-known archaeologist and museum expert Dr Saif-ur-Rehman Dar gave a review of handicrafts of Pakistan in historical and geographical perspective in his paper Historical Background of Crafts of Hilly Areas of Pakistan. Nazir Ahmed, director handicrafts, Punjab Small Industries Corporation read his paper on Development of Shawl in the Hilly Areas of Punjab.