You might have heard some astounding stories about Pakistan as a tourism centre from your parents and grandparents. The 60s and 70s, specifically, were the decades in which tourism in Pakistan saw its prime. The photos of those days can be found doing rounds on the social media, hosting a variety of diplomatic guests from all around the globe.
Those were the days when Pakistan would constantly be a highlight of the arrangements of universal visitor destinations. The problem most probably arose after the 9/11 incident, where Pakistan was held responsible for harbouring Osama Bin Laden. Because of this most of the western public saw Pakistan with a negative image. Even then tourism in Pakistan managed to stay on its legs with the help of cricket and mountain climbers. However even that was brought to an end when Sri Lankan players were shot at by terrorists near Gaddafi Stadium in 2009 when they were having a test series with Pakistan. Pakistan was then on seen as a state which was unable to keep itself safe.
In spite of the overabundance of offerings that Pakistan can make to its voyagers, Pakistan has fallen behind neighbouring India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bhutan with regards to tourism, and that is the place the terrible news starts. It is very confusing for Pakistanis these days to see that their neighbours India, who relatively have the same past, culture, food and famous Mughal architecture as themselves are doing so well. India is seen as a must travel destination by many people all around the world. Pakistanis are left asking themselves why the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort are not as glorified by westerners like the Taj Mahal. Seeing how India is doing, Pakistanis can see a glimpse of the wonders they could achieve as well. Given the political unsteadiness of the nation, it is a show of nothing unexpected that numerous global travel organizations issue a travel advisory cautioning their customers not to visit Pakistan. Lest worldwide tourism; even local tourism has been influenced unfavourably by the floods of terrorism and absence of lawfulness in the nation. Besides, common disasters, for example, the 2005 seismic tremor and 2009 surges have likewise added to the vexation.
Topographically, the nation is more or less rich. From the snow-topped heaps of the north to the deserts of Thar; from the fields of Punjab to the level of Potohar; from the Salt reach to the shore of Makran. Albeit moderate, Pakistanis are by nature inviting and accommodating individuals to nonnatives, attempting to get by notwithstanding lack of interest from their administration and periodic threats from the outside. You will feel like you have the nation to yourself.
Attractions that would have been sprinkled over the polished pages of daily paper travel supplements are practically vacant. While excited travel guidance comes tinged with authority government tourism warnings, you’ll have to watch out for the news before booking your ticket – yet once here, you’ll understand that Pakistan truly is one of the world’s best-kept travel mysteries. Accordingly, whenever you’re on a break from work and wish to experience the journey of a lifetime, pack your bags for an adventure and expect greatness.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Lahore.