Pakistani Tourism Posters in India

Posted on September 2, 2009
Filed Under >Soumya Saxena, Foreign Relations, Travel
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Soumya Saxena

I recently visited a passport agent’s office in India. This agent also ran a travel agency from the same office and had tourism posters of various countries and other states in India pasted on its walls. I was browsing through these posters when one poster took me by surprise. It showed a highly decorated public bus in bright colors and below it was written:

The land of various colours: Pakistan


The photo above shows typical decorative art done on a Pakistani truck.

For a moment I quite really didn’t understand what I saw. This is because it was something I had never seen before. My utter surprise was not to end here as I saw another poster with an image of Gautam Buddha (in Gandhara art form) and again written below the image were the words:

The land of various colours: Pakistan

Gautam Buddha and Pakistan? For a moment I was in a fix again, and then I realized that Takshashila (Taxila) is part of Pakistan.

I certainly owe to my ignorance and also to the image of Pakistan promoted across the world, especially in India that I was unaware of the phrase ‘Pakistani tourism’. Actually I have never ever seen a tourism poster of Pakistan or for that matter anything to do with Pakistan which reflects its social or cultural life because unfortunately it is mostly about Kashmir or Terrorism.

Amidst all this we often forget that Pakistan is really in fact the land of colours. I went home and googled about the Pakistani Tourism and found this official tourism site (http://www.tourism.gov.pk/). Browsing through this site was not less than a revelation for me. I had never seen such an image of Pakistan, so many places to visit, historical remains, art, culture, fair, festivals, suddenly a more soft and pleasing Pakistan was in front of my eyes.

Later on I was discussing this topic with my Pakistani friend and he told me that the government does not do much to promote Pakistani tourism either abroad or at home. The historical and archaeological sites are mostly left to decay and defacement.

Zahida Hina, a known Urdu columnist, writes a weekly column ‘Pakistan Diary’ . This column appears in a sunday magazine called Rasrang . Rasrang is part of a Hindi language newspaper Dainik Bhaskar. In one of her articles she wrote that rains often flood the historical remains at Mohenjodaro, but no heed is taken by the authorities. I really felt sad after reading this, given the fact I have been a student of history and always wanted to visit the sites of the great Indus Valley Civilization.

I realize that in India and Pakistan, historical monuments are not preserved the way they should be. This even include the monuments which are labeled as ‘World Heritage’. Often it can be seen that visitors come and carve their names and other symbols on these monuments with stone, chalk, pencils, etc.

Treatment of tourists is another concern. The recent violent incidents in Pakistan creates a certain amount of hesitation and fear in the minds of the people whether to visit or not to visit.

However, people who have visited Pakistan have a lot to tell about the hospitality of the local people, the food, the culture, the lively ambiance of the country. All in all they give talk about an experience which is completely different from what they had perceived before visiting Pakistan.

Personally from what I have read and researched about Pakistan, I feel even a year is not enough to see the whole country. It is certainly blessed with natural beauty as well as historical and cultural diversity. Tourism industry can be very lucrative in Pakistan.

I want to end my post with a message that lets give tourism a chance. It may bridge the gap between people much quicker than any official/bureaucratic attempt to do so.

Author is a lawyer by profession and works for World Wide Fund in New Delhi

Photo Credits: Kamran Channa, Omer Aslam, Zahoor Ahmed, Saima, digital deadhead, Agha Waseem

36 Comments on “Pakistani Tourism Posters in India”

  1. Haroon says:
    September 3rd, 2009 12:13 am

    Thank you, Soumya Saxena.

    I hope people on both sides can learn to appreciate that which is wonderful about each of our countries. I am grateful for yo writing this.

  2. Majid says:
    September 3rd, 2009 12:35 am

    Certainly tourism is the best and most applicable way to get on the road towards better Pakistan. If we would study the impact of better tourism on Pakistan, it will be shown that better tourism will help rectify many problems which are generally conceived as indirect to tourism in Pakistan. When I was student in school I always yearned to see different places of Pakistan but our govt. is a big enemy of its own culture and tourism.

  3. Ragini says:
    September 3rd, 2009 12:58 am

    A very nice read. Yes, I’m certain Pakistan is beautiful! It’s so sad that it is concealed behind the image of terror and unfriendliness. However, this is not the complete picture. My friends who have been to Pakistan, love the country! They have found the people to be warm and hospitable, the food to be delicious and the sights to be breathtaking. Pakistan has good tourism potential because of these very reasons. The Himalayas stand as gracefully in Pakistan as they do in India and add to its splendor.
    I wish to visit Pakistan someday and see all this for myself. May our countries become friends soon. What happened, happened. It’s time to be happy neighbours.

  4. soumya says:
    September 3rd, 2009 1:05 am

    Thanks Ragini :)
    we will visit together and ask WWF to sponsor out trip ;)

  5. Parveen says:
    September 3rd, 2009 1:35 am

    Interesting piece. Thanks.

  6. Karishma says:
    September 3rd, 2009 4:57 am

    Thank you for that wonderful article!

    I think it is high time we put aside our history and create a new chapter one of peace and stability for the future. As an Indian, I would like to say that one of my all time destinations to visit has to be Mohenjadaro in Pakistan. I believe both sides have great places of visit and culture that bonds us in this common but unique thread, let us see to it, we do not lose it in this hate politics

  7. Shakeel says:
    September 3rd, 2009 5:43 am

    Thank you for a lovely read.

    Indeed tourism can be a success in Pakistan. The nation has some wonderful things that people over the world would love to see. If only we had good leaders :(

    The hospitality of Pakistanis is very well documented too. We are good hosts. In fact, the whole of South Asia is known for that IMO.

    I recall the stories of Indian fans traveling to Pakistan during the 2004 Cricket series; they had praise only for their hosts. I had soo many expectations after that series – tourism will improve, people to people contact between the two nations will improve .. But all it takes is few murderers to ruin all that.

  8. Bradistan says:
    September 3rd, 2009 6:36 am
  9. soumya says:
    September 3rd, 2009 7:06 am

    @bradistan

    that was a wonderful article..
    thanks a lot for sharing :)

  10. Tina says:
    September 3rd, 2009 7:10 am

    Pakistan has a great deal to offer, and more than its share of World Heritage Sites (I think there are eight…can anyone confirm this?). Unfortunately, when I wanted to go to Mohen Jedaro myself, I was told it was much too dangerous, and that one needed special permission from the Sindh government and a police escort….I don’t suppose its become any safer. If the security situation would improve, Pakistan would indeed be a tourist’s dream.

  11. Tina says:
    September 3rd, 2009 7:17 am

    To answer my own question…Pakistan has six confirmed World Heritage Sites and eighteen sites (!) under consideration. The six are Shalimar Gardens and Lahore Fort, Taxila, Mohenjedaro, Rohtas Fort, Makli-Thatta, and Buddhist ruins at Takht-i-Bahi. Sadly, an Indus Dolphin reserve and rock carvings at Gilgit and Hunza did not make the cut.

    The website is here: http://www.worldheritagesite.org/countries/pakistan.html

    Happy reading to all hopeful tourists!

  12. September 3rd, 2009 8:25 am

    Dear Soumya
    I am a crusader for Pak India Peace Tourism, as you can see from my blog and twitter entries.
    You can get my email @ my blog name@googlemail or from ATP admin. we at ATP are well wishers of India and Pakistan brotherly/Sisterly Love and Peace.
    Thanks
    Dil Nawaz

    http://twitter.com/bradistancallin

  13. Sikander Hayat says:
    September 3rd, 2009 9:25 am

    Pakistan is a very beautiful country with a history to match India’s ( having the same chromosomes and all). Indians must study more about Pakistan so that we can accept each other as soveriegn countries with our own paths to follow but living peacefully side by side.

    http://real-politique.blogspot.com

  14. omerfarooq says:
    September 3rd, 2009 11:24 am

    Thanks for sharing this precious piece of information!

  15. Shahid Rafiq says:
    September 3rd, 2009 11:38 am

    Soumya, thanks for writing nice article about the tourism in Pakistan. We Pakistanis have yet to show our real face to the world. We are far from it right now.

  16. Shahid Ali says:
    September 3rd, 2009 2:51 pm

    Bravo Soumya,

    An eloquent writer with seamless prose. An eye for beauty in all its shapes and forms. A goodwill ambassador from India to Pakistan, but most of all a decent and fair-minded human being!

  17. ali says:
    September 3rd, 2009 4:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing your views about Pakistan with us Soumya.Right from Karachi to Khyber Pakistan has a lot to offer, it is unfortunate that the world has projected the crisis oriented side of the country more and the government also has played no part in promoting tourism in the country.If you get a chance to tour Pakistan you will find the people friendly and hospitable specially if you are coming from India.

  18. Azlan says:
    September 3rd, 2009 10:34 pm

    thank u Soumya Saxena for sharing what u have experienced so far about pakistan and pakistan tourism. it is true that Pakistan is a land of colors and many must to visit places. but the problem is that govt never took it seriously to establish and promot tourism industry over here.

  19. Usman says:
    September 4th, 2009 1:16 am

    Very nice. Thank you.

  20. September 4th, 2009 1:25 am

    Some comments from the ATP Facebook Page:

    - “Thank you for writing this.”
    - “pakistan zinda baad,sab se pehley pakistan”
    - “Long live Pakistan”
    - “The important thing is wat we think abt tourism in Pakistan. I dont think we treat tourists too well”
    - “pakistan is good place for turisum way”
    - “Excellent Read!!!! Thanks much for sharing!”
    - “A very simple poster. There are much more than village life in Pakistan.”
    - “tdcp’s minister shud b punishd”
    - “My brother visited Moenjodaro a year or two ago when he visited Pakistan and told me he was extremely impressed by what he saw. Its not all doom and gloom. I think though that once security improves in Pakistan and over time there is an expansion of the middle class population there will be greater interest in tourism.”

  21. fan of atp says:
    September 4th, 2009 5:27 am

    appreciable effort on your part soumya. as an indian i know that pakistan has so much potential, tourism is one such area, but alas!
    it would be fulfilling one if someone who have visited pakistan have actually share his/her experience, especially sari clad one. looking after second part of this article.

  22. September 4th, 2009 12:58 pm

    Nice article Soumya..and nice to see you writing for Pakistaniat!

    Anyway @ your statement:
    “For a moment I quite really didn’t understand what I saw. This is because it was something I had never seen before. ”
    I think probably you should start looking around India first..I agree that the painting looks indeed classy, but that is only what is seen in India too..Pakistani art and culture didn’t come from Arabia as Zia Ul Haq would like Pakistanis to believe..

  23. Mahendra says:
    September 5th, 2009 10:33 am

    I just wanted to quickly mention that Pakistan is one of the top 5 countries i would like to visit..the top one to be honest ..and often get ridiculed because my friends think i am joking …
    i am not even sure where to start if i want to visit pakistan .. nevertheless the mystery, enigma and the rich diversity will continue to fascinate some of us indians …maybe it because we dont know much about Pakistan …politics aside my guess is pakistanis are absolutely great people …

  24. Raheel says:
    September 7th, 2009 1:19 am

    Being a voyageur by nature, seldom people would know better than me, how much blessed Pakistan is. From picturesque valleys to dominating mountains, the rivers, the deserts, the modernization, the heritage; Pakistan’s colors are undeniably eye capturing. I wrote about it here

    - http://tinyurl.com/lj2ad6

  25. Raheel says:
    September 7th, 2009 1:29 am

    Also, may be someone finds this and this interesting, either. I have, recently, started penning down the experiences of travel across Pakistan.

  26. soumya says:
    September 7th, 2009 2:29 am

    @aanand

    I didn’t mean that I have never seen the art before
    the statement meant i was amazed to see the poster and i have never seen a pakistani poster in india before …
    and why are you so parochial… I have looked around India a lot … so I know what is here and what is there in Pakistan…

  27. Watan Aziz says:
    September 7th, 2009 9:07 am

    I cannot believe this.

    That I might be defending Zia?

    Impossible!

    Zia went about in shalwar-kamiz which I see graced by many Indian ladies in radiant motifs from both north and south of India and a vast majority of whom are not Muslims. The Indian shops are stocked. Visit Oak Tree Road in New Jersey one day and defy your stars. Tour over to Amritsar. And those Sikhini jatnis’, you should see them one day! And then there is an image of young Indria Gandhi with shalwar kamiz and dupata; just like any Kashmiri girl, of any faith.

    Nothing is more South Asian as Shalwar – Kamiz (you say salwar-kameej?), an innovation and introduction of Muslims of South Asia.

    But Anand Srinivasan, the ‘parochial’ ignorance of you and your friends in RSS /BJP make it so possible to defend Zia, even if I have to hold my nose.

    And the fact that your ranks may be larger than the entire population of Pakistan send shivers down the spine of all Soumya Saxenas and Saeeda Salams of South Asia.

    Zia was bigot but not ignorant like you. Neither are better for prosperity and peace. What he did, Pakistanis know but you are determined to destabilize. He is gone.

    There, I can breath again.

    But you are here. Do speak up often. We need a reminder for all Soumya Saxenas and Saeeda Salams to be aware that your ignorance exists and the challenge remains.

    Now, for the Indian tourism industry, there is one Jaswant Singh, a former Defense Minister and former Foreign Minister who needs armed escort to visit Gujrat (Anand Srinivasan, the one in India; JS is quite safe in the one in Pakistan).

    No wonder, if JS has to praise Sardar Patel before anything about Jinnah and Soumya Saxena has to praise Guruvayoor Temple before anything about Gandara, you throw Pervez Hoodbhoy in whole new domain. You all make him look like a village idiot !

    Live long and prosper (on the other side).

    Jai Hind to you and Pakistan Zindabad to Pakistanis.

  28. soumya says:
    September 10th, 2009 12:53 am

    what on earth does Watan Aziz’s comment mean???

  29. adeel says:
    September 10th, 2009 1:59 am

    @soumya
    Basically he’s saying that the gutter stinks the same irrespective of which side of the border it is.

  30. January 24th, 2010 4:42 am

    Aah, I had forgotten about this till I was brought back to it..

    @Watan Aziz
    I presume it took you a month drafting that long post of yours..How I wish you had only reread my statements. I for one, hate the RSS clan..I see a lot of similarities in India and Pakistan..

    And that’s exactly what my statement means..There is nothing called Pakistani art..It is all South Asian art which is a mix of Hindu, Mughal and various other influences..So when Soumya writes that she saw a Pakistani art in India, it is weird because it is just a Pakistani’s art..

    Read and reread before pointing fingers..

  31. September 20th, 2010 12:05 am

    I have looked around India a lot … so I know what is here and what is there in Pakistan…

  32. HIRAlious says:
    September 20th, 2010 1:49 am

    the beauty which remains neglected.

    if we had nothing and we were in this state, i wouldn’t resent it so much.
    the knowledge that we could be so much better off, is heart-rending though..

  33. Watan Aziz says:
    September 20th, 2010 8:43 am

    Ahh, the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), suffered so acutely and commonly by our Indian friends. (Please announce it as part of your post so we may remember to account for it.) Everything within their imaginary circle is claimed as Indian. They all claim Pakistan is Indian, Kashmir is Indian, Sri Lanka is Indian, Tibet is Indian, Nepal is Indian, Bangladesh is Indian, Sikkhim is Indian.

    And those inflicted with NPD will certainly lay claims the of “ownership” of art through time and geography!

    Of course, if this logic is followed and historically if Mughal is Indian, then the historic Harrapan civilization, (dominant civilization in across lands of Pakistan), must be Pakistani. And to further follow that logic, the entire “Indian” civilization is thus borrowed from lands of Pakistan. Thus and therefore, there is no Indian civilization, just Indus civilization borrowed heavily by Indians and popularly referred to as “Indian”.

    Now, the NPD afflicted will almost always say that the word Pakistan is “foreign”. That this whole land and people are “Indian”. So, then it begs the question, how old is the word “India” itself? What is the history of this word? Who gave it to whom? And therefore, what, where and when constitutes what is commonly referred to as “Indian”? By the very nature of this, NPD afflicteds will be at a loss to explain how is the word Indian “older” than the word Mughal? And therefore, is Mughal really “Indian” or is Indian truly is junior and subset of “Mughal”?

    But wait, don’t stop there. Now fast forward to today and google “truck painting in india”. You will be surprised. And if you are an Indian like Anand Srinivasan (with or without announced membership of RSS), shocked! (Don’t even try “truck painting in bharat” ! Even scratching the video output will not change the results.)

    Of course everyone knows the art of Shakir Ali, Gulgee, Sadequain; ahem, that too is, Pakistani. Nothing Indian (or Bharati about it) about it. And much more is what can be popularly called as “Pakistani art”.

    To clarify for NPD afflicted, the claim is not the isolation of time and geography, but the nurturing of a certain style, design and expression and it’s evolution that is distinct to Pakistan.

    So, yes, there is Pakistani art (and it is beautiful) and it is nurtured and appreciated by people of Pakistan and others who love Pakistan. No claim to ownership, just a sense of pride and appreciation. Hopefully, everyone can appreciate it too.

    And if you are one of those who hates Pakistan, we certainly have hope that you too can appreciate art for the sake of art as it has no beginning and no ending.

    That is what I think, Soumya Saxena wants through this post.

  34. soumya saxena says:
    November 16th, 2010 11:58 am

    @ Watan Aziz

    you are talking in pure Historical Terms….

    I am studying in Europe currently, Indian food is quite common here and also clothings etc….
    So if someone ask me what is chicken tikka masala…. do you expect that I will explain him the whole Afghani Mughal cuisines and how they came here and how they developed all this.. ? NO, I would simply say its an Indian dish ….

    I was interacting with a Pakistani here ,… my fellow student asked do you speak the same language…. we said yes its similar…. now do you expect… I tell him the history of Arabs, mughals pathans turks coming to India…. how persian got mixed with prakrit pali…. how Amir Khusro developed hindavi…. how urdu came into being… Obviously NO….

    For people of post independence era…. everything they see is Indian…. or Pakistani…. We called in Indian history but have to study about every element of every nation….

    and yes Pakistan must not be Indian…. but yes Pakistan was Hindustan ….
    what you think Jinnah called himself before developing the Idea of Pakistan???? Gujarati ????

    India is a blend …. we cannot split open every knot which is tied with its culture over the yera….
    you may think its narcissim … but actually it is not

  35. Watan Aziz says:
    November 17th, 2010 10:34 pm

    @soumya saxena

    For context, and to digress a bit, the whole narcissism issue popped up because of a poster (how ironic in context of the blog title) named Anand Srinivasan, I guess was not ‘happy’ at term “Pakistani art”. His baseless claim will remain senseless.

    Now lets start our conversation with an agreement, Pakistan was once Hindustan (Persian in roots, an anomaly itself). This is true. Muslim rulers named it such. The Great Allama Iqbal referred to the same in his writings. As for Jinnah, while I am sure he referred to the term Hindustani but may have never called himself as Hindustani. His choice word would have be an “Indian”. You see, Jinnah was a lawyer and was always precise in his legal references. He would not make a mistake. But this is my best guess. There is chance I may be wrong.

    But now let me see if I can an agreement from you.

    The same stretch of historical context makes Pakistan, Hindustan, also makes Hindustan very much Indus (we are not sure what the good folks of Indus Valley Civilization called themselves, as their writings remain a mystery).

    So, the mother of civilization in South Asia was centered around Indus in old name but what is now know as Pakistan as a modern name. If you want to visit Indus, you have to fly to Pakistan.

    So, now lets try to keep these names in context.

    Pakistan is what was Indus. India is what was generally known as Hindustan. Hindustan inherited from Indus. Therefore, India is really Pakistan. Q.E.D.

    And thus, all the South Asian art, literature, language culture, religion, etc. is based on Pakistani civilization. It is Pakistani civilization that the modern “India” has inherited. True, the name Pakistani is new, but then so is the word “India”. It is only a few hundred years old. And in context of history, few hundred years means nothing.

    Now I know good folks in Gujrat (Anand Srinivasan, the one in India) are smashing their monitors as they read this, but this history cannot be denied. I know it was hard enough for them to admit if Muslims can be their neighbors. To think that their entire civilization is based on Pakistan will want them to totally stop lurking at ATP. This will be too much to swallow.

    Now, we both know the larger population and size is why most people would like to refer it as Indian but historically, geographically and anthropologically, it should be referred to as Pakistani (albiet, Indus). We have to admit, what is sometimes popularly understood is not always right. No one knows if George Washington really did chop down the cherry tree or not! And I will not even bring up Santa in this conversation. Mail does get delivered and replied as well.

    Now as for your question, what should you tell if someone asks about chicken tikka masala? My answer will be, it depends.

    If the person asking question has basic knowledge of 3rd grader (not trying to put down 3rd graders, some of them give me headaches) then the simpler answer will be better. But if the person is savvy, telling them this is a classical Pakistani dish popularized by Lahore; that will be a great answer. You will be pleased at being helpful. However, if someone is real connoisseur, telling them that Gujranwala is where you will find the best chicken tikka masala anywhere in the world; well you will feel real proud and good about it!

    And btw, after the delicious chicken tikka masala, the best Kashmiri chai outside Kashmir, why of course, in Lahore, Pakistan.

    If you agree with me, this was a great conversation. If you disagree with me and I would be delighted to hear from you, please do also share when and where did you learn how to walk on water.

  36. AjayShekhar,advocate says:
    March 18th, 2011 3:29 pm

    thanks,soumya.
    I liked ur article.
    if u r a lawyer by profession in delhi as written in this article,i would like to be in touch to share views.

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