Written by Ch. Faisal Mahmood
Our federal interior ministry has imposed a ban on visits of foreign tourists to Gilgit-Baltistan without obtaining a no-objection certificate (NOC) from Islamabad.Reacting to the development, the all stakeholders of travel and tourism industry of Pakistan has rejected the very surprising move by the ministry.
Holiday weekly call it a very unwise and very harmful step for an already ignored tourism industry of Pakistan. When our neighbor has made e-Tourist Visa available for nationals of 161 countries and during the year 2016, a total of 10, 79,696 tourists arrived on e-Tourist Visas in comparison to 4, 45,300 during 2015, registering a massive growth of 142.5 per cent, whilst us here, dying for International tourists and at the same time putting conditions and hurdles for their arrival.
Why is it the ministry forgot that 70% of the people in GB depend on tourism to earn their livelihood as there is no other industry in the region. Tourists visiting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab or Sindh are not required to get NOC, then why for GB.
The Chief Minister Gilgit-Baltistan hasalso shown his disagreement and concerns to the federal interior ministry’s decision of making no-objection certificate (NOC) compulsory for foreign tourists.
The most famous and well marketed tourism destination of Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistancannot afford to have any hurdle what so ever in the smooth landing and visits of international tourists to Gilgit-Baltistan. As the tourism season has already started and the tours operators have worked hard to attract the tourists from all over the world. Particularly when we are sure that this upcoming tourism season is going to be a remarkable. The tour operators have been attending almost all international tourism festivals, expos and meetings including ITB berlin and showcased Gilgit-Baltistan an ultimate tourists destination so at this stage any hurdle will be very detriment to all those efforts we all stakeholders have been doing form last two decades.
Now when very encouraging results are coming out of the efforts made by the government GB andother stakeholders in this regard. Each year number of foreign tourists is increasing which is a very healthy sign for the local economy as well as national exchequer and protecting the soft image of Pakistan.
We understand the security concerns of the government and we expect some wise decisions and tangible other solutions to tighten the security as well as avoiding such harsh tourism arrangements. Gilgit-Baltistanis among the most peaceful parts of Pakistan and this ban is unjustified and discriminatory. If security is the underlying reason, then NOC condition should not be limited to GB, but the whole country.
We hope sanity will prevail and government will consider taking back this condition of NOC for the International tourists visiting Gilgit-Baltistan.