To the army chief; this is to humbly suggest a few points from one Pakistani to another as we share the same goal of bringing prosperity to our precious nation. This letter is to emphasize how military commercialism benefits countries with regards to tourism, with the example of how such practice has salvaged the economic woes of Sri Lanka and India. Hence such is also possible for Pakistan’s frail economy, provided it gets a helping hand from our patriotic and valiant armed forces.

The idea of military tourism struck my mind ,when in 2009 I was flying back to Pakistan from LA (USA) via Dubai. A middle aged American lady was sitting next to me. She told me that she was on her way to India. I got inquisitive and asked her about the details of her journey. She told me that she would go from Delhi to Ladakh ( Kashmir), where she was to attend a colourful ceremony of some tribe and that she would capture the event in her camera. I wondered why any tourist would consider going to a land as volatile as Indian Occupied Kashmir and the answer was simple, military involvement ensuring safety.

Furthermore in India the MESCO (Maharashtra Ex-Servicemen’s Corporation) has recently launched Veer Yatra, a military tourism initiative in Pune. The government of Maharashtra undertaking will organize guided tours with retired veterans. Currently MESCO is focusing on areas of historic importance. They are going to organize fort tours with designated ex-servicemen, who will narrate the historical battles that were fought at the locations.

Likewise in Sri Lanka, Kankesanthurai is a sandy and palm-tree filled stretch of land on their northern coast. It is one of dozens of high security zones throughout northern Sri Lanka established during its war against the separatist Tamil Tigers. In 2009, the Tigers were defeated in a dramatic and controversial fashion, thousands of Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of the conflict as the government shelled the last rebel stronghold. The Sri Lankan government resisted calls to draw down its massive security force even after this event. Instead, it steered the military directly into an expanding range of businesses, perhaps none more conspicuous than tourism. The Sri Lankan military’s hospitality portfolio now spans from hotels and restaurants to whale-watching tours and airlines in an island nation that the travel guide ‘Lonely Planet’ bills as this year’s best destination—“a cut-price paradise put back on the map.”

Pakistan has a great tourism potential as we all know. Five of the world’s fourteen mountains taller than 8,000 meters (26,000 ft) are in Pakistan, four of which are near Concordia. Most of Pakistan’s high peaks are located in the Karakoram range, the highest of which is K2 - (8,611 meter-—-28,251 ft) . They could attract millions of tourists for sightseeing, skiing and Mountaineering, provided our military could ensure the safety and upkeep of the land.

Then we have deserts like the Indus Valley Desert that lies between two major rivers in the region, the Chenab and the Indus Kharan Desert (Which is located in north east Balochistan) and Cholistan in Punjab ,where desert lovers can enjoy their respective sports

On top of all this we have the pristine beaches of Balochistan, where one can experience beautiful blue sea waters accompanied with soft non sticky sand .These beaches could be a top tourist destination for Pakistan subject to provision of basic facilities i.e. good accommodation and security. If we open these beaches to foreign tourists (under the armies protection ), it would undoubtedly boost our economy..

Considering all this I am at loss to understand as to what’s stopping us from tapping in to the tourism gold mine. The only impediment is security and necessary facilities. With tourism comes not only the task of providing safety, but also resolving the adjoining problem of keeping the destinations clean and litter free. Only a disciplined organisation could cater all these needs. A corporation run by retired army officials could easily manage commercial tourism. In this way, we can add billions of dollars to our treasury and get rid of the clutches of the IMF and other loaning agencies. The esteemed Army chief and PM can take this initiative which would go a long way to make Pakistan a great country.

The writer is the former Senior Executive Vice President National Bank of Pakistan.

I wondered why any tourist would consider going to a land as volatile as Indian Occupied Kashmir and the answer was simple, military involvement ensuring safety.