Chief Editor: Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

Govt introduces new visa regime; will it really help? By Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

Govt introduces new visa regime; will it really help? By Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

The Pakistan government has announced “drastic’ steps to woo especially foreign tourists by introducing a new visa regime whereby the government has extended ambit of e-visa and allowed people from over 50 countries to get visas on arrival in Pakistan.The announcement is significant in the sense that it may increase flow of visitors from other countries provided the incumbent government is able to provide them with an atmosphere free from insecurity.

Law and order ostensibly has been the main stumbling block in the way of foreign direct investments and promotion of tourism.

Undoubtedly, counties where the tourism industry is constantly on the move thus contributing heavily to the national exchequer, law and order situation there is well under control.

For instance Indonesia is a country where tourism industry is progressing by leaps and bounds only because the Indonesian government makes it sure that those coming to Indonesia for tourism purposes are properly taken care of. Resultantly, the country not only receives highest number of tourists every year but over 9 per cent of its national earnings is coming from the tourism sector.

There is no denying the fact that Pakistan, over the years, has improved its credentials as a safe and secure country – major credit of which must go to the armed forces of Pakistan for it only happened because of their innumerable sacrifices. It does not mean that the problem is full resolved. There are still certain grey areas that need to be addressed and perhaps are being addressed by the law enforcing agencies, nevertheless the goal can only be achieved once all stakeholders play their due role.

Pakistan unfortunately faces serious image problem abroad. The country’s perception portrayed in the foreign media of course is false and not in commensurate with the ground realties. Here comes the role of our foreign missions whose prime responsibility in such circumstances should be that how to improve country’s image and encourage and convince more and more people to visit Pakistan and explore various business as well as tourism avenues. Regrettably, most of our foreign missions have miserably failed to project positive image of Pakistan. Now when the government has decided to promote tourism, it should also give a wakeup call to its embassies abroad.

There is no denying the fact that Pakistan, over the years, has improved its credentials as a safe and secure country – major credit of which must go to the armed forces of Pakistan for it only happened because of their innumerable sacrifices. It does not mean that the problem is full resolved. There are still certain grey areas that need to be addressed and perhaps are being addressed by the law enforcing agencies, nevertheless the goal can only be achieved once all stakeholders play their due role.

We often come across with unseemly questions especially from the foreigners that how can you promote tourism when you do not have a full-fledge tourism ministry? The argument certainly carries weight. Therefore, the first and foremost thing which, the government should do is to establish a tourism ministry at the deferral level and appoint a minister. Currently, the provinces are responsible for promotion of tourism activities but this experience has not paid the dividends thus needs to be reversed.

Infrastructure development is yet another issue the present government has to grapple with. Courtesy CPEC, the road infrastructure in some tourist places is upgraded however the entire road network that leads to such places must be upgraded. Without state-of-the-art communications means promotion of tourism will remain a distant dream.  Pakistan is gifted with beautiful landscapes and enchanting panoramas. North part of Pakistan particularly has mesmerizing sceneries and gorgeous mountains and that too in abundance but all this natural beauty remains out of the reach of millions of tourists because of want of communication resources; security situation and lack of accommodation facilities.  Relaxing visa regime is no doubt a step in the right direction but then it should be followed by some auxiliary measures that are necessary to promote tourism.

And last but not the least one should hope that this new visa regime will also benefit the diplomatic community based in Pakistan, because in some cases it takes six months or even more for diplomats to get their Pakistani visas. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs ought to address this issue.