WRITTEN BY CH FAISAL MAHMOOD
Readers would have noticed that as far as promotion of Tourism is concerned, the good news – despite our externally imposed difficulties – have been coming primarily from the province of Punjab.
Be it the provincial Tourism Mela in Lahore, Thal Jeep rally, Cholistan Jeep Rally, Double Decker Tourist Buses, Agri-Tourism, the revamping of heritage assets in the walled city or induction of Tourism in the school curriculum, they are all praiseworthy initiatives from one province. Credit must be given to the TDCP, the provincial Tourism Administration and to the Outgoing Tourism Minister who had used his concurrent responsibility of Education to bring Tourism in the study books of our emerging generations. But Punjab has always cared for Tourism; right from the days of the first federal government which took what was then a bold decision in October 1947 to send an official delegation to the conference in Paris which founded a body which later became United Nation’s World Tourism Organization
Khyber Pakhtunkhawa is also making the right noises with one event or the other and there is perceptible change in the air, thanks to the proactive posture of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Tourism Corporation and the proactive tourism minister.
But what is there to say about Sindh. In terms of Tourism, it has more assets to build on. Its tourism wealth in history and archaeology begins from not the Mughal Period but further back in time when its Moenjo Daro was a leading contemporary of the more famed Mesopotemia; it has the sea and its Goragh Hill; its creative and performing arts are singular; its Sufi heritage is respected worldwide and its capital is a recognized window to Pakistan and has all the potential of an international convention city.
With all these assets, plus the fact that Karachi airport still receives the largest number of Arrivals, despite it not being our only international airport, should have already had a vibrant tourism economy. And, as we said earlier, if the tourism potential of Sindh had been done its due, Pakistan’s overall tourism Arrivals and Earnings would not have depleted as much as it has.
What is the reason? To say that it is an absence of political will, would be a dilution of the fact which must be faced. The fact is that our politicians – presently and previously in power – betray an absence of knowledge about Tourism. They don’t seem to know even its multiplier factor to boost socio-economic activities and employment potential. This is strange, considering that this Party’s founder had done the most ever, with State fiat, to promote Tourism in the country. The Chief Minister, admittedly a Young, dynamic, respectable and respected stalwart of the ruling party, needs to correct the step-motherly treatment to this Department, particularly time and fund wise.§