Cultural heritage inspires Buddhist tourists in Swat

MINGORA: Buddhist tourists from Thailand on Wednesday praised the scenic beauty, pleasant weather and rich cultural heritage of ancient Buddhism in Swat valley and invited tourists from Southeast Asia to visit the valley and enrich their knowledge.

This was the first international tourists group of 25 members coming to the scenic Swat valley since the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government withdrew the condition of no-objection certificate for foreign tourists to enter Swat valley from March 30.

Swat valley has thousands of Buddhist archaeological sites of high
importance and the valley is considered sacred to the Buddhists and Hindus alike.

During their visit to the Swat Museum, the group from Thailand took keen interest in the Buddhist archaeological records and artefacts decorated in its various galleries.

Ramida, a tourist from Bangkok who has visited Pakistan two times but entered Swat for the first time, said, “When we heard that Swat valley is open to foreign tourists we came here to see the rich cultural heritage of Buddhism because I have read about it in different books and magazines.

“It really inspired us to see the artefacts, structures and the beautiful art of ancient Buddhism which is quite interesting for Buddhists. Seeing this here shows that we have something common which is a very good sign,” she said with excitement.

She praised the museum’s architecture and termed the Buddhist arte-
facts very useful for Buddhists all over the world.

“It tells us how we were in the past and gives a lesson to how we should be in future,” she said.

Andy Phanachet, a mechanical engineer by profession, was observing different artefacts in the museum closely. He told this correspondent that the history of Buddhism in Swat valley was of high importance and interesting.

“I see the history of Buddhism in relation to Hinduism and Islam here in this part of the world.

The carvings, statues and other artefacts are very beautiful and interesting here in the museum,” he said and appreciated the pleasant weather of the valley apart from its scenic beauty.

Dr Kanoknart Chintakanon, a dentist by profession who had some archaeological background, said that the display of the Swat Museum was attractive. “We really enjoyed visiting the museum and seeing the
THAI tourists being briefed about Buddhist artefacts at Swat Museum on Wednesday.—Dawn
important historical artefacts. Visiting and seeing all this enriched my knowledge and fulfilled something that I missed in life,” she told Dawn.

However, she suggested that it would be very good if there were a sort of explanation displayed with each artefact so that the visitors could read it and understand it without the help of a guide.

The tourists urged Buddhists and other tourists from the Southeast Asia to visit the Swat valley, at least, once in their life to experience the rich cultural heritage and scenic beauty of the valley.


NOC for foreigners to visit Swat no longer required

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government After having a meeting with the Pakistan Tour Operators Association on Wednesday KPG government’s home department has lifted the ban on foreigners tourists visit to Malakand Division. This no no-objection certificate (NoC) is required to visit Swat Valley any more for foreigners who are accompanied with a tourist guide of any member tour operator of the association.

According to statement issued “NOC is not required to visit Malakand Division-Swat, Buner, Shangla, Upper Dir, Lower Dir, Chitral, and Kohistan District,  and these areas have been declared open and are no more restricted area”.

Obtaining a no-objection certificate (NoC) from the Home and Tribal Affairs Department was made essential for all foreigners’ tourists and NGOs for visiting Malakand Division.

According to officials, the decision was taken in order to enhance tourism in the region and work on ongoing development projects in tourism sector. The policy was creating obstacles for the investors in the tourism sector.

General tourist amy also contact the media cell of home department phone number 091-921-0507, for any queries.


PTI govt announces KP’s first tourism policy

Pakistan Tehrik E Insaf’s leader Imran Khan says new eco-friendly resorts will be built in different parts of Galiyat to promote local and foreign tourism.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has become the first province to announce Tourism Policy-2015 in a tourist resort town Changla Gali, Abbottabad on Wednesday with the theme ‘Let promote Tourism to beat Terrorism’. This is being announced when the visas to Pakistan have become next to impossible.

Speaking at the launching ceremony, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan expressed his pleasure over the announcement of KP Tourism Policy, saying that people of KP will soon feel the healthy change in the province.

He said that new eco-friendly small tourist resorts will be made in different parts of Galiyat without relocating the population, as tourism will not only provide employment to skilled and semi-skilled labours, but will also help create soft image of the region.

The PTI chairman said that he is glad to see that the roads in Galiyat have improved remarkably; however he added that constructions of big roads would never be his government top priority rather he would prefer to construct tourism resorts in the country.

The PTI chief said that KP is blessed with immense tourisms potential and cultural diversity and richness having sites representing archeological, cultural, historical and religious significance and attractive natural and scenic beauty, but unfortunately no government ever in the past gave any importance to tourism sector.

Terming the KP government’s investment of Rs 50 billion in tourism sector as an ambitious target, Imran Khan expressed optimism that the dedicated and committed tourism team will make the tourism policy a success.

He said the KP government will also adopt measures to protect the ancient places and he will meet Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif to discuss the handing over of Balahisar Fort to KP government.

“I propose the commercialization of Chief Minister House in Galiyat, as it could became a source of generating a handsome amount of revenue for the province,” he said.

Talking about PTI Tsunami Tree Campaign, Imran Khan said that WWF declared the survival rate of trees as 85 per cent because locals have started taking care of it, adding that so far more than 100 million trees have been planted in different parts of the province.


Pak economy back on track: Forbes

ISLAMABAD  – Pakistan has undergone a series of positive developments meriting recognition and country’s economy was on track to complete an International Monetary Fund program from start to finish for the first time in its 70-year history.

According to an article published in Forbes, American-based business magazine, the positive developments taking place in the country despite very poor country brand with the international media, set the table for the sort of policies and investments needed to move the country on a path traveled by Indonesia or Brazil.
The magazine stressed the United States and its allies to help address the core structural development problems within Pakistan that would also help resolve their security concerns.


It also asked the US Administration to broaden the way it looked at Pakistan as security issues have dominated Washington’s Pakistan agenda for decades while “soft” issues have been an afterthought.
From Islamabad’s perspective, the “soft” issues included some of their most important challenges. These soft issues might be characterized as Pakistan’s “6Es”: (non-security) engagement, economics, entrepreneurship, education, energy, and (gender) equality.

According to the magazine, most of the international community engage Pakistan through an “AfPak” lens or an “IndoPak” lens, but Pakistan cannot be defined completely by its relationships with its neighbors.
Pakistan is the sixth largest country by population in the world and is projected to become the fourth largest country by 2050. To understand Pakistan requires analysis through its own sui generis set of issues and opportunities. The country had its first peaceful democratic transition in 2013, and for now, the military, the civilian government, and civil society are broadly aligned on security issues.

Pakistan’s growing middle class, which will expand from an estimated 40 million people today to 100 million people by 2050, represents a powerful engine for change, demanding both improved services and greater access to opportunities.

One key area of expanding demand and potential growth lies in the energy sector. Pakistan’s abundant coal reserves and access to water flowing from the Himalayas mean it could be the “Saudi Arabia of Coal” and the “Saudi Arabia of Hydropower.”

Pakistan also has significant wind, solar and geothermal potential. It is in both U.S. and Pakistani interests to see that Pakistan grows a lot faster.

To seize its full potential, Pakistan is going to need more capable people to lead industries that will carry its future growth; run it’s national, provincial and city governments; and grow its universities.

The government has made some increases in spending on education, up from 1.9 percent of GNP in 2004 to 2.5 percent in 2014; Pakistan aspires to spend 4 percent of GNP on education so it is still not where it needs to be.
In Pakistan’s higher education institutions approximately 45 percent of students are women, but at the basic education levels the numbers are much lower, with some provinces at eighteenth century education participation levels: more than 50 percent of girls in rural areas do not attend primary school, and more than 75 percent of girls do not attend secondary school.

Pakistan’s government knows would have to simultaneously improve girls education levels in rural areas to come at par with a twenty-first-century economy, the magazine said.


Pope Francis ‘accepts invitation to visit Pakistan this year’

Pope Francis has accepted an invitation from the Pakistan government to visit Pakistan later this year, according to the APP .

According to APP Two Pakistan’s ministers, Kamran Michael, a Catholic, and Sardar Muhammad Yousaf, the minister for religious affairs, visited Pope Francis on March 2 in Vatican City to extend the invitation.


However, Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi told the National Catholic Register that there is “currently no travel programme to Pakistan being studied”.

The Pope was thankful for the invitation but neither accepted nor declined, Vatican sources told the Register.

The only previous Pope to visit Pakistan was St Pope John Paul II, who celebrated Mass at the National Stadium in Karachi. A small bomb exploded minutes before his arrival.

Bishop Rufin Anthony of Islamabad-Rawalpindi said the possibility of Pope Francis coming to Pakistan was encouraging. “The minority Christians will be definitely encouraged,” he told “However, the security of the Holy Father will be the sole responsibility of the government.”

Fr Saleh Diego, director of the bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace in Karachi archdiocese, said: “This is totally unexpected. Our joy know no bounds ever since we heard about it.

“The Pope might tie up his visit with his tour to India slated for 2017. However, this is a big risk for the government as things are different than they were when Pope John Paul II had visited Karachi in 1981,” he said.

Fr Diego also warned that there were severe security concerns in the country, pointing out that “the Taliban are still targeting institutes and intolerance is generally prevalent in the society”.


Rail link planned between Gwadar and Iranian port city Chabahar

QUETTA: Pakistan and Iran have decided to lay railway track to connect Gwadar with the Iranian port city of Chabahar.

The decision was taken at a meeting between Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri and a 22-member Iranian delegation led by the governor of the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan, Aaqa Ali Hosth Hashmi, in Gwadar on Sunday.

Balochistan Chief Secretary Saifullah Chattha, representatives of the Gwadar Port Authority and other officials concerned attended the meeting which discussed border security, drug trafficking, illegal crossing of border and other issues.

According to official sources, the Balochistan government delegation raised the issue of border violations by Iranian security forces.

The meeting decided to take up plans for border trade, new shipping service and flights from Gwadar to Iranian cities and towns.

A committee has been set up to monitor border security and related issues.

The meeting was informed that a border commission had already been formed that would look into border-related issues between the two countries.

Under another decision, Iran which is supplying 70 megawatts of electricity to Makran division will increase it by 30MW, besides providing 1,000MW to Pakistan’s national grid.

Mr Zehri said at the meeting that Pakistan and Iran enjoyed strong brotherly relations and shared the affinities of culture, faith and customs. Balochs living on both sides of the border spoke the same language.

He expressed the hope that the governor of Sistan-Baluchestan would play an active role in speedy implementation of various projects.

Mr Zehri said Pakistan was against terrorism and condemned wherever it took place. The border commission, he hoped, would resolve security issues.

He said he would visit Sistan-Baluchistan.

Aaqa Hashmi said the main purpose of his visit was to strengthen ties between the two neighbouring countries which shared traditional values. He said he hoped that border security issues would be resolved.

Meanwhile, a number of delegations of representatives of different local sectors called on Mr Zehri and apprised him of problems faced by them. The chief minister assured them that his government would take all possible steps to solve their problems.

He said work on the Sodh and Shadi Kour dams was under way and would soon be completed. The government was working to solve the problem of shortage of drinking water in Gwadar and address other issues.

The chief minister said a fully operational Gwadar Port and completion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would usher in an era of development and prosperity in the region and local people would be its main beneficiaries. He also said that local people would be given preference in development projects in Gwadar.


Emirati guides to promote Dubai historical district

Dubai: Dubai on Sunday launched the first Emirati-operated heritage tour programme as part of efforts to promote tourism in historical quarters of the emirate.

“We have trained six Emirati tour guides so far under our specially-created tour guide certification programmme and plan to introduce more as the programme develops, such as introducing it in the languages of Mandarin or German. As the project is new, it will remain under study and will continue to grow and develop on cultural and seasonal events, such as Dubai Shopping Festival or the Emirates Literature Festival,” said Yousuf Ahmad Lootah, Executive Director of Tourism Development and Investments at Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.

Lootah said a committee handling Dubai Historical District (DHD) rejuvenation will be overseeing 100 projects over the next four years, as the emirate gears up to receive 20 million visitors per year by 2020. “Part of the projects that will focus on Emirati culture includes the promenade at Al Seef Road and a museum in Al Shindagha,” he said.

Covering 1.5 square kilometres, the heritage tour will be based on the tradition, heritage, trade, and origins of Dubai’s early settlers, which will be narrated by registered Emirati tour guides as they direct visitors through Heritage Village, Shaikh Saeed House and the Spice Souq, in addition to various other landmarks.

“As UAE nationals, our tour guides while growing up were our parents, or our aunts. The idea of this project came from retelling the history of Dubai from the source itself – the citizens,” said Saeed Al Naboudah, Acting Director General of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, member of (Dubai Historical District) DHD Rejuvenation Executive Committee.

The ‘Tales from the Past’ tour aims to highlight the importance of Dubai’s historical and culturally rich areas and is part of an initiative launched last year by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to renovate Khor Dubai and other historical neighbourhoods.

The DHD Rejuvenation Executive Committee includes representatives from Dubai Municipality, Dubai Tourism and Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (DCAA), who are responsible for carrying out the 2015 initiative.


The heritage tour if offered every Monday from 10am-2pm at a cost of Dh350 per person, with a maximum booking for 20 seats. Bookings can be made through Desert Gate’s website.


Shaheen Airlines’ flight goes off the run way during landing in Lahore

Shaheen air flight NL142 from Karachi to Lahore landed at Lahore airport and slipped from runway and was landed in the grass aside the runway. The boeing 737 of Shaheen Air was damaged from the landing gear and one of the wing was also broken.

There were over a 100 people including the staff on board, 10 of them got minor injuries. Shaheen Air’s 737 had also similar incident last year in December (30 December 2014)

Following are the pictures as shown by BBC of the plane