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