IN a landmark development, Prime Minister Imran Khan, on Thursday, launched the online visa regime with the aim to promote tourism and investment. The new e-visa scheme will facilitate visitors from 175 countries as they would be able to secure Pakistani visa from their homes without having to visit a Pakistani embassy or consulate.
This is, indeed, a bold step in the right direction, which, apart from promoting tourism and investment, might help transform the overall image of Pakistan in the comity of nations. This is because a message has gone to the outside world that security situation has drastically improved in Pakistan and the country was safe for tourists and visitors. The very fact that no country of the world has issued travel warnings to its citizens is also manifestation of the confidence of the world in the improved security environment in the country. Credit for this surely goes to the armed forces and the law enforcing agencies as they worked hard and rendered tremendous sacrifices in addressing the menace of terrorism and extremism. There were times when the world media talked about the possibility of extremists approaching Islamabad but beginning from Swat operation, the armed forces moved firmly to eliminate the threat from different regions and succeeded in the unconventional war against terrorism. The country is now poised to reap the benefits of measures taken to address the internal security challenge but still we would have to remain on the vigil to foil designs of the enemy that is bent upon doing mischief to undermine Pakistan’s march on the road to progress and prosperity. Federal and provincial governments, armed forces and security agencies will have to increase their coordination to ensure that there is no threat to tourists as any such incident could spoil prospects for promotion of tourism. Similarly, all provincial governments, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan should undertake an aggressive programme for provision of necessary facilities for tourists at all places of tourist attraction. Presently, even reliable roads, electricity, water and accommodation are non-existent at a number of spots that are visited by local and foreign tourists. The Government should also offer incentives to private sector to help develop places of tourist attractions on modern lines including establishment of international quality transport companies and quality hotels and motels besides provision of IT and telecom related facilities that are a must in the present-day world.