By Muhammad Luqman
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday announced a new visa regime to facilitate tourism in the country besides attracting foreign investment.
The new e-visa scheme will facilitate visitors from 175 countries.
“A new e-visa scheme is being introduced to facilitate visitors from 175 countries. This newly launched policy will open Pakistan’s doors to the world, making it more accessible to tourists and investors from across the globe. #DiscoverPakistan,” according to a tweet of the ruling Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf.
The introduction of the online facility would help tourists obtain visas to Pakistan without having to visit an embassy or consulate.
Addressing a ceremony to roll out the government’s new visa policy, Prime Minister Imran Khan said Pakistan’s effort to open its doors to the world is a manifestation of the new confidence that the security situation has drastically changed and Pakistan now is secure.
He r said the issuing of online visa is a major step towards bringing real change as it will open the country to the outside world, including foreign investors. He said the mindset regarding allowing foreigners into the country needs to be changed in order to portray a positive image of Pakistan to the world. Imran said the foreign missions in Pakistan will be activated to play a vibrant role in promoting tourism of the country in the world.
Regarding ties with neighboring countries, he said Pakistan wants good relations will all the regional countries, including India.
The prime minister said that his government was working to promote beach tourism in the country by taking advantage of the unexplored long coastal belt of Pakistan.
The PM said Gilgit-Baltistan is twice the size of Switzerland and there are still many unexplored areas in the area, adding that a task force would be formed to make sure proper facilities are provided to the tourists. He said the skiing resorts of Pakistan are unique in the world due to their topography.
The prime minister said religious tourism is another major area that needs to be explored. He said religious sites of Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism in the country can attract a large number of visitors from across the world. Imran said ancient civilizations of the country will be introduced to the world with the promotion of tourism.
He said Peshawar is one of the oldest cities and the government would develop its historical part with the help of Germany. He said all the tourist sights and attractions will be properly advertised on a dedicated website.
Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said the launching of online visa facility is a major step towards Naya Pakistan. He said the decision made under the chairmanship of prime minister is a reflection that Pakistan is opening its doors to the world.
He said Pakistan is more peaceful and stable country thanks to sacrifices rendered by armed forces and people of Pakistan.
Highlighting major features of the new visa policy, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi said multiple visas to nationals of 96 countries will be granted within 24 hours of applying.
He said citizens of 175 countries can apply for online visa while people from 50 countries will be granted visa on arrival.
Afridi said that initially citizens of five countries, including the UK, Turkey, Malaysia, UAE and China will be granted online visas in the pilot project.
He said foreign nationals of Indian origin will also be allowed to avail the facility of visa on arrival for religious tourism.
The minister said average visa fee has been reduced from 22 to 65 per cent. He said nationals of UAE, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain among others will be given multiple visas.