By: Asem Mustafa Awan
‘Brand Pakistan’ is vision Prime Minster Imran Khan has for Pakistan as a safe destination for the tourists of the world. PM has asked all foreign missions abroad to vigorously project Pakistan as the ultimate destination for tourism related activities
Pakistan home of lofty mountains with the world second highest peak K-2 and the oldest of civilization’s Mehrgarh is a region that has been marred by few people who for their petty gains leave no stones unturned in destroying the image of Pakistan.
Tourism is an industry which opens the door to many an indigenous trades and people associated with it.
A recent ugly incidents of rape, eve teasing and brawls reported in the media showed the mindset of the locals of Murree, who have been hell-bent in ruining the vacations of tourists who are nationals and residents of Pakistan.
Murree hills, a popular tourist destination of the residents of other provinces, has had many a unscrupulous elements that run amok and harass the people who visit Murree situated not more than 50 kilometers from federal capital Islamabad.
A network operates with the connivance of local administration which is tongue tied and in hapless state. These people in their greed pick on families as a person show caution and less retaliation with women and children around. These people pick on the visitors over parking lots which are but few and if one is lucky to get a spot the shopkeeper in connivance with the rogue elements have a live show where the tourist is ganged up by many people and is thrashed ruthlessly.
Not long ago there was a campaign ‘Boycott Murree’ and the recent incident involving a family from Faisalabad has given a curtain raiser for Prime Minister’s vision of ‘soft image of Pakistan’ besides a molestation, eve teasing and thrashing of traffic police official.
The ‘Brand Pakistan’ gets branded with the rogue elements who are on the loose by people who have motives to even fleece from the wind that cross their path.
Tourism is an industry which opens the door to many an indigenous trades and people associated with it. The handmade artistries all over the world are treasured and valued for the craftsmanship of individuals who are unparalleled.
A visiting family from Faisalabad was tortured in a restaurant on the expressway in Murree over a minor issue but the incident was highlighted in the media and the Boycott Murree Campaign that died down in the past is rejuvenated with a new vigor.
Murree is Pakistan’s most famous and crowded tourist destination and is visited frequently by millions of people every year.
The unchecked rowdyism by the locals have marred the place beauty that offers unique ambiances particularly in the autumn when the cloudy mist wraps around the one and moves along. The ‘pathetic tea’ ruins the mood but the whole package is so enchanting the tea is forgotten and walk in trance resumes over the winding path with pines everywhere.
Murree hills can be a showcase study for ‘Brand Pakistan’ but many things need to be put together before the gigantic task of soft image of Pakistan can be presented to the world.
Murree with hostile locals which are only a handful have made it a place which is now considered in a ‘no man’s land’ and the bullies at large in connivance with the administration takes it on the innocent visitors.
There were efforts made to check these incidents with beefed up security presence but the checkers themselves got involved in slaughtering the ‘golden gooses’ which were a plenty and the supplies were unending.
If this small tourist spot that generates many a millions is taken up the ‘Brand Pakistan’ experts in devising a strategy which curtails the hooliganism, it will be presumed that PM’s vision about ‘Brand Pakistan’ is in safe hands.
The Murree dwellers in order to fleece the money out of visitors often resort to violence. There is no complaint cell where a commoner can file a complaint against the belligerent attitude of aggressors who run an operation which defies the law and many other established norms of humanity.
Boycott Murree Campaign not long ago made the home tourists make Kaghan and Naran their favorite destinations. Middle class spend their vacations in upper Northern Areas where people have been more hospitable and more courteous to visitors as these visitors bring money for the economic sustainability of the region.
The need of the hour is to curb this bullish attitude of the locals and the government should devise a plan to help the visitors also ‘residents of Pakistan’ to have a fear free days during their sojourn to the hilly spot.
A list of services should be made available along with important numbers if any untoward incident happens. Brand Pakistan before embarking on building the soft image of Pakistan can visit Murree as ‘case study’ and share its research paper pointing at the areas which seek attention.
In two hours flight, the foothills of the Himalayas and Karakoram are reached in the north. The same flight in south takes one to the sea. Be it sea or the mountains Pakistan is blessed with all to cater to the taste of millions of tourists that PM aspires for presenting the country as a ‘safe heaven’.
PM’s vision will stay a vision if efforts are not made to check the problematic areas besides ensuring the rule of law.
The writer is special correspondent at The Dayspring