The government was working to develop a Buddhist trail by exploring religious sites in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab in order to attract the followers of Buddhism and monks from across the globe.
This was revealed by Zulfikar Bukhari, who has recently taken charge as Chairman of Pakistan Tourism Development Cooperation (PTDC), while talking to the media.
Bukhari, who was also Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, said the initiative was being taken by the government as part of its plan to market religious tourism by introducing its rich Buddhist heritage to world. The trail would start from Swabi and Swat, and culminate at Taxila, which had numerous Buddhist sites.
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, he added.
“We will start by focusing Buddhist sites in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and gradually moves down to Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan where ancient sites of various religions are located in a large number,” he said while reiterating his government’s resolve to explore untapped tourism potential.
The Chairman PTDC also hinted at engaging foreign Buddhism followers to attract their investment for preserving their cultural heritage.
He said the students and academia would be engaged to formulate a policy and help the government promote tourism as a collective resolve and efforts were required for the purpose.
Such initiatives, he said, would help translate the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan regarding religious tourism into a reality.
They would also help government to demonstrate its interest in preserving and showcasing its non-Islamic heritage, besides projecting a soft pluralistic image of Pakistan internationally, he added.
Talking to media Zulfikar Bukhari said everyone in the country could practice his religion freely as per the vision of Pakistan’s forefathers and that of the prime minister, who was a strong proponent to make the country a welfare state on the pattern of Sate of Madina.
He said the tourism was contributing around 10 per cent in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) globally but unfortunately, in Pakistan, only 2.9 percent was the contribution of this highly profitable industry in national economy.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, he said, the PTDC aimed to make it 10 per cent of GDP which would help the industry to add over 20 billion rupee in the national kitty.
It may be mentioned here that various areas in Pakistan like Taxila ,Takht -i- Bhai, Mardan, Peshawar and Lahore are home to some of the rarest Bhuddist relics.
Pakistan has been the cradle of Buddhist art and culture since time immemorial.The Gandhara civilization flourished in the North Western region of Pakistan from the 6th century BC to the 5th century AD.