There is a lot of potential for religious and spiritual tourism in the country, not only for attracting domestic tourists, but international tourists as well. We only need to improve and restore basic infrastructure, such as roads and rail links to particular places of significance. Other needs include the availability of local transport like metro, hotels and motels with reasonable charges, cheap and clean inns, reasonable toiletry, medical facilities, and fire brigade arrangements in case of unpleasant incidents. Auqaf Departments in all provinces may play an important role in activating these places, by restoring and upgrading the basic facilities for the general masses and tourists. From Khyber to Karachi, there is a series of famous Saints who are still a source of spiritual love, harmony and unity among the masses. Their teachings, prose and poetry still enthrall visitors and ‘zaireen’ despite the passing of centuries. In addition to this, there are minorities’ religious and sacred places throughout the country. Examples include Katas Raj, Gurdwara Punja Sharif, Hasan Abdal, Baba Guru Nanik, Nankana Sahab, as well as other sacred places in every nook and corner of Pakistan. Hindu people visit the place near River Hangol in Balochistan regularly. Moreover, we are witnessing that work has started on the Kartarpur Singh Corridor to facilitate Sikh pilgrims in a more effective manner. Automatically, this will generate a positive socio- economic activity on the eastern side of the province Punjab.

Now the onus lies on each concerned district administration to start a comprehensive study on this aspect, by promoting religious and spiritual tourism in their areas where renowned saints’ shrines and minorities’ sacred places exist. In Sindh, we find famous saints and their poetry and teachings. The same is the case in Multan, with my famous saints there. As we move ahead, we witness the Uch Sharif where famous saints are buried. A number of people still throng to these places and spiritually enlighten themselves with their teachings and their noble deeds. A comprehensive study conducted by district administrations should include the establishment of a Research Center related to these saints, like in Multan and Uch Sharif. In this way, intellectual relations may be built among these centers, universities and the common man, because all they are intertwined. Moreover, museums can be established according to the need and situation. All these promotional activities may generate an intellectual and socio- economic boost in the revenues of each district. Auqaf Departments and District Authorities should jointly work on this project. Now it depends on how the present government takes up the issue of tourism boosting.

SHAGUFTA ANSARI,

Islamabad, February 21.