Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tourism not Terrorism


by Dilnawaz

       The PAKISTANI GOVERNMENT under President Zardari started peace initiatives with India taking tentative steps to liberalise trade and tourism with India. Zardari doing a live webcast (his firstever) with English speaking Internet users in India and coining terms like “In every Pakistani there is some India and in every Indian some Pakistan” was very optimistic.

       In the time period between 6 September presidential inauguration and 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks, Zardari administration  was still struggling in its initial days inside Pakistan with terrorist attacks on Marriot hotel and the worsening law-and-order situation in the tribal belt and north west frontier province. There was “made-in-Taliban” tag in the world media; it had already scared off most westerns.

       However, the peace initiative is a rare opportunity to kindle the beacon of peace between India and Pakistan. The Indian leadership (barring Sonia and her son Rahul Gandhi) is in their old age of retirement, hardly a material for pragmatic and dynamic leadership. The anti Pakistan lobby headed by fire breathing Parnab Mukherjee who the people of his own west Bengal have rejected a number of times, fails to take the hint and quit gracefully. The oxford educated bureaucrat Man-Mohan Singh sounds like a Punjabi supervisor from a Russian Tractor factory rather than an accomplished economist that he used to be. The right-wing leadership in BJP Vajpai and Advani has by and large become irrelevant and cannot function properly.

It is the young leadership of India (Sonia and Rahul) who can effectively talk with young Pakistani government (Zardari, Gilani and Qureshi). The vigorous TV campaign for a Visit India on the European channels was highly successful in “Incredible India” promoting Indian tourism and culture till 26/11 attacks when suddenly British and American got scared about Indian tourism

       The Pakistan government initiatives — we have learned through previous experiences of Visit Pakistan Year 2007 which went up in smoke of chief justice movement and terrorist attacks after red mosque siege — are most of the time riddled with bureaucratic red tape, half-hearted, half-baked and ill-conceived tourism departments. Nevertheless, Zardari made a start, which every one thought might bring better results this time around, but it wasn’t to be. The hawks in Indian and Pakistani establishments and media started talking of terrorism rather than tourism and dark clouds of war started gathering over the whole sub continent, thankfully the sane leadership of India (Sonia & Man-Mohan) and Pakistan (Zardari and Qureshi) saved the countries from the brink of war.

       There are a few silver linings appearing on even the darkest of clouds. Tourism today is one of the biggest industries in the world; it brings employment, opportunities and equality to otherwise less-developed areas in India such as Rajasthan. The terrorist attacks came at a worst time for tourist industry in India when the tourist season was just starting after hot monsoon season.

Pakistan is the best-kept secret of tourism industry. After the 9/11 and Afghan war Pakistan became a dangerous destination for western tourists. The Himalayan valleys in northern areas, The Kite runner Festival of “Basant” in the ancient walled inner city of Lahore (capital of north Indic culture), Pakistan’s cultural and religious tourism for Sikh religion and Sufi shrines and  K-2 mountain climbers disappeared from the tourism industry radar , these are still as good as any in the world. Pakistan has to showcase the Indus Valley and Ghandhara Buddhist civilizations, Basant festival, performing arts festival, truck art, chicken-tikka masaala cuisine, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh pilgrimage places to new markets.

       The Peace tourism discussion is about how ordinary Pakistanis and Indians can play a part in defining what is meant by new friendship initiative. The Pakistani government focused on cultural exchanges, peace cricket tours with India (which was cancelled by Indian hawks in their war posturing), festivals at Shiv Mandir in Katas Raj and Kali Mandir in Hinglaj Balouchistan. Also, religious tourism, if opened, can bring Non-resident Indians (Sikhs especially) NRIs from Europe and America. Its high time Indians are allowed free access to Pakistani destinations.

       Common Indians are not scared of terrorism threats that world media projects about Pakistan. They know that most of Pakistan (and India as well) is a peaceful destination and the people are friendly and are nostalgic about the communal harmony in pre-partition days from British India.

       Entry visas at arrival for business, family and package tourists will be the first right step in normalising the peace process and increasing people-to-people contacts between the two countries.

       Millions of Indians will be eager to cross the Wahga border for one day trips to savour the culinary delights of Lahore Food Street and Basant and other Punjabi festivals. This nostalgia and the bond of friendship was shown in Indian cricket tour of Pakistan 2004 when thousands of passionate Indian cricket fans turned Pakistan tour into a festive occasion and places like Peshawar (northern NWFP capital), the birth place of Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor and the family home of Shah Rukh Khan, welcomed Indians with open hearts.

      Everyone may have his / her own ideas on South Asian future and identity, there are right and left wing views on secular, religious, urban and rural commoners and elites population diversities. Pakistan is a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-religious society, which can fosters the concept of “unity in diversity” and “peace for friendship”, and this must be the key to “tourism for peace”. Pakistani tourism must focus on commonalities between the two countries so that Pakistani destinations become a permanent spot on the Indian tourism map.

       Most Indians still have historical links with families, festivals, cities, food, culture, music and art of Pakistan. Pakistan can make it a year-long campaign. Institutions like PIA, already flying to Delhi and Mumbai, can become a calling card for Pakistani tourism and hospitality by increasing the number of flights to Indian cities. Private airlines from India and Pakistan can also share the frequencies in domestic network.
The shipping industry in both countries has already joined hands to promote trade and tourism. The Indian government terrorism assessment after 26/11, can damage sea links between Mumbai and Karachi.

State-run Pakistan TV and Doordarshan India should be allowed mutual reach in Pakistan, India and the Middle East. Organisations like South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) and Pakistan India Peoples Forum for peace and democracy (PIPFPD) can spearhead the peace campaign. Major Pakistani satellite channels like Dawn TV, Indus Group, ARY, Geo and Jang. AAJ TV are already collaborating with Indian film and media industry to bridge the gaps between two estranged siblings. Will India reciprocate the Zardari peace initiatives remains to be seen? If Indians and Pakistanis decide to take ‘peace initiative” Western will surely follow Indian and Pakistan tourism

Bradistan Calling is a Pakistani Website in Bradford, UK (Little Pakistan).

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author (s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statement / s contained in this post.

Wonders of Pakistan supports freedom of expression and this commitment extends to our readers as well. Constraints however, apply in case of a violation of WoP Comments PolicyWe also moderate hate speech, libel and gratuitous insults.
We at Wonders of Pakistan use copyrighted material the use of which may not have always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” only. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Custom Search