Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pakistanis Tourist Industry affected by Raymond Davis Episode

The following article is from

Already low, Tourists trafic has halted after Raymond Davis episode
February 27, 2011 – 8:16 pm

LAHORE: Pakistan‘s already dieing tourist Industry has suffered the hardes after the Raymond Davis episode of January 27.

It is revealed that despite untiring efforts of Pakistani travel agents and professional guides to lure in foreign tourists into the country, a visible tightening of national visa policy had already halted the flow of a good number of prospective travellers of late.

However, those who have still managed to secure visas from the Pakistani embassies in during the last one month or so, have been seen posing accommodation and transport-related queries regarding Southern Sindh, Punjab, Gilgit, Hunza, Skardu and Chitral etc on these travel sites.

Under the new visa policy, most foreign tourists (except a few cases) will now have to seek the Pakistani visa from their respective countries of origin.

In the past, most of the tourists would enter Lahore through the Wagah border; fly into Pakistan from and via New Delhi, and even land in through direct flights coming from Dubai and Bangkok-with none at the airport or border immigration desks caring to ask them about the exact purpose of their visits to a country otherwise haunted by terrorism and where mountain tourism has been endangered since long.

These tourists also included journalists and English language teaching professionals. In Lahore, these tourists have mostly been interested in staying at shabby backpacker hostels near the Regal cinema or a few known budget accommodations at the otherwise congested locality of Old Anarkali-the place from where Raymond Davis was intercepted by the crowd while fleeing.

The couple of backpacker hostels at the Regal Chowk (The Mall) have also been taking these tourists for ‘Sufi nights’ to the shrines of eminent saints like Hazrat Shah Jamal etc, where these travelers have been witnessed smoking a bit of hash amidst thumping beat of the drums.

Personal accounts of tourists enjoying these ‘Sufi nights’ have also been posted on these travel forums in recent years.

While thoroughly studying the content on these afore-quoted travel forums, one also comes across travelers seeking information about prospects of photography in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, instead of inquiring about the more picturesque Islamabad interestingly.

One may also come across complaints of foreign tourists, whereby they are seen raising hue and cry after being ripped off by travel touts, paid translators or even by the staffers of the budget hostels.

It is noteworthy that countries like North Korea have always treated both journalists and ordinary travelers with a pinch of salt-suspecting that a few of them crossing over from China— might well be on reconnaissance missions or deputed on tasks to perform preliminary surveys, that are normally undertaken with the sole aim to collect certain information.

There have reportedly been numerous incidents in China and North Korea etc in recent past, where tourists have been probed extensively in connection to certain exploratory military surveys, for which one needs to be on the ground actually.

The Chinese and North Korean authorities thus ended up arresting and jailing a few travelers for not giving satisfactory answers.

One wonders if the Pakistani national security institutions have till date pondered over initiating a scrutiny of the most-preferred backpacker resorts in the country to find some ‘startling’ clues, and should an exercise such as this is undertaken in near future, it might unmask a few shocking facts!

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