By Muhammad Luqman
Pakistan government has announced to relax travel restrictions by offering visas on arrival to visitors from 50 countries and electronic visas to 175 nations.
The reforms, approved by the federal cabinet, would open up a new era for the tourism industry, Federal Information Minister Fawad Hussain Chaudhry said.
“We have mountain tourism, we have beach tourism,” Chaudhry told a news conference in the capital, Islamabad, referring to lofty Himalayan peaks and Arabian Sea beaches seldom visited by foreigners.
“Pakistan is a heaven for tourists.” Chaudhry did not identify the countries that would benefit from the new rules but in December.
Tourists would also be allowed to visit Kashmir and other northern areas, which now require special permission. The new rules would also ease travel restrictions on foreign journalists, Chaudhry said.
The new visa regime comes after some countries eased travel advisories on Pakistan in light of improvements in security.
Pakistan was last a prominent tourist destination in the 1970s when the “hippie trail” brought Western travellers through the apricot and walnut orchards of the Swat Valley and Kashmir on their way to India and Nepal. But the situation got worse in 1980s due to Afghan war and later in the wake of 9/11 attacks on the United States and ensuing war of terrorism. Pakistan had to play the role of front line state for over three decades. However, over the last five years, security has improved dramatically , with significant decline in terrorist incidents in the South Asian country with over 200 million people. The state owned Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation said last year tourist arrivals rose to 1.75 million in 2017.