Buddhist trail: Federal government takes unprecedented initiative for religious tourism in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD - The government has worked out a plan to develop a Buddhist trail by exploring religious sites in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab to attract the followers of Buddhism religion from across the globe. This was disclosed by Chairman of Pakistan Tourism Development Cooperation (PTDC) Sayed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari while talking to APP.
The trail would start from Swabi and Swat, and culminate at Taxila, which had numerous Buddhist sites, he informed and added that the initiative was being taken by the government as part of its plan to market religious tourism abroad. Likewise, sacred places of other religions, including Sikhism and Hinduism were also scattered all over Pakistan and the PTDC was planning to provide facilities there to attract their followers not only from across the country but also from abroad, Zulfikar Bukhari said who also holds the portfolio of Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development. Such initiatives, he said, would help translate the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan regarding religious tourism into a reality by showcasing non-Islamic heritage to the world. They would also project a soft pluralistic image of Pakistan internationally, he added. Zulfikar Bukhari also urged the foreign Buddhists to visit the country and help the government in preserving their cultural heritage. Highlighting the potential of the country’s tourism industry, he said Pakistan was blessed with diverse culture and enormously rich historical heritage possessing the relics of famous civilization of Gandhara and Indus. The official sources in Directorate General Archeology, Punjab said some 2,000 years ago, the Gandhara civilization entered in this region and then spread along the valleys of Swat, Dir, Peshawer, Buner, Bajur, Takht-e-Bahi and Taxila. They said the intriguing record of Gandhara civilization was discovered by the British excavators in 20th century who found ruins and relics of this civilization in huge quantity. The sources said the history also showed that the Buddhism traveled to the Far East Asia from this region. Annually, the country saw huge influx of religious tourists including Sikh, Hindu pilgrims and monks from different parts of the world, they added.
It may be mentioned here that the government was working on construction of Kartarpur Corridor from Indian border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in order to provide visa-free access to Sikh pilgrims.