PM inaugurates online visa facility, forms tourism coordination board

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– PM says new visa regime is a manifestation of improved security situation

– Says online visa facility would help tourists obtain visas from the comfort of home

– Promises to hold entire PSL in Pakistan next year

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said his government was rolling out a new visa regime to facilitate tourism in the country as well as attract foreign investments.

According to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s official Twitter account, the new e-visa scheme will facilitate visitors from 175 countries.

“A new e-visa scheme is being introduced to facilitate visitors from 175 countries. This newly launched policy will open Pakistan’s doors to the world, making it more accessible to tourists and investors from across the globe. #DiscoverPakistan”

The introduction of the online facility would help tourists obtain visas to Pakistan without having to visit an embassy or consulate.

Addressing a ceremony to roll out the government’s new visa policy in Islamabad on Thursday, he said Pakistan opening its doors to the world is a manifestation of the new confidence that the security situation has drastically changed and Pakistan now is secure.

The premier said issuing of online visa is a major step towards bringing real change as it will open the country to the outside world, including foreign investors. He said the mindset regarding the allowing of foreigners into the country needs to be changed in order to portray a positive image of Pakistan to the world.

Imran said the foreign missions in Pakistan will be activated to play a vibrant role in promoting tourism of the country in the world. Regarding ties with neighboring countries, he said Pakistan wants good relations will all the regional countries, including India.

The prime minister said that his government was working to promote beach tourism in the country by taking advantage of the unexplored long coastal belt of Pakistan.

The PM said Gilgit Baltistan is twice the size of Switzerland and there are still many unexplored areas in the area, adding a task force would be formed to make sure proper facilities are provided to the tourists. He said the skiing resorts of Pakistan are unique in the world due to their topography.

The prime minister said religious tourism is another major area that needs to be explored. He said religious sites of Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism and in the country can attract a large number of visitors from across the world. Imran said ancient civilizations of the country will be introduced to the world with the promotion of tourism.

He said Peshawar — a crown jewel of ancient Bactria kingdom– is one of the oldest cities and the government would develop its historical part with the help of Germany. He said all the tourist sights and attractions will be properly advertised on a dedicated website.

PSL TO BE HELD IN PAKISTAN:

The prime minister lauded the role of security agencies for their sacrifices to make Pakistan a secure and peaceful country, expressing optimism that next Pakistan Super League (PSL) tournament will be held in Pakistan.

“Pakistan is a secure country today. The next season of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) will be held in its entirety in Pakistan instead of Dubai,” he said resolutely.

“I know how boring it used to be to play in front of empty stands,” he told the audience recalling his days as a cricketer.

“Today I especially congratulate the interior ministry and foreign office. People don’t realise that this is a very big change today,” he said, before going on to quote the Chinese proverb: “To take a 1000 mile journey you have to take the first step.”

Earlier, Minister of Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the launching of online visa facility is a major step towards Naya Pakistan. He said the decision made under the chairmanship of Prime Minister is a reflection that Pakistan is opening its doors to the world.

The frustration faced by the nation in the past is now coming to an end. He said the government of PTI is fulfilling the wishes of people of Pakistan at economic, defense, foreign and other fronts. He said today’s step is a major initiative towards Naya Pakistan.

He said Pakistan is more peaceful and stable country thanks to sacrifices rendered by armed forces and people of Pakistan.

Earlier, highlighting major features of the new visa policy, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi said multiple visas to nationals of 96 countries will be granted within 24 hours of applying.

He said citizens of 175 countries can apply for online visa while people from fifty countries will be granted visa on arrival.

Shehryar Khan Afridi said initially citizens of five countries including the UK, Turkey, Malaysia, UAE and China will be granted online visas in the pilot project.

He said foreign nationals of Indian origin will also be allowed to avail the facility of visa on arrival for religious tourism.

The minister said average visa fee has been reduced from 22 to 65 percent. He said nationals of UAE, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain among others will be given multiple visas.

National Tourism Coordination Board

In view of the national tourism policy to facilitate coordination between the federal and provincial governments, Prime Minister Imran Khan has given approval for the formation of the National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB).

A formal notification in this regard has also been issued by the cabinet division according to which Zulfiqar Bukhari will serve as the board’s chairman and joint secretary of the cabinet division board. Nine working groups have also been set up for the NTCB.

In addition to facilitating coordination between provincial, federal and international institutions, the NTCB will engage in the marketing and promotion of tourism and tourist destinations in the country.

The board will be responsible for ensuring coordination between the economic affairs division, the investment board and other institutions for investment in the tourism sector. It will also assist provinces to establish regulatory framework for ensuring quality standards of hoteling and accommodation for tourists.

The board will also extend coordination for representing Pakistan at international exhibitions and serve as a platform for formulating provincial strategies for tourism.

Imran vows measures to boost eco-friendly tourism in Pakistan

Among its many responsibilities is to look at the technical aspects of the tourism sector including visa policy and issuance of no objection certificates (NOCs) and related rules and regulations.

As per the notification, nine working groups have been set up to assist the board including one for culture, heritage and artifacts. The other working groups pertain to ecotourism, branding and marketing, regulatory and policy framework, religious tourism, investment promotion, infrastructure and facilities, adventure tourism and the Trans-Himalayan jeep rally. The board is also vested with the authority to appoint members to the working group.

The notification states that the chairman of the investment board and secretary of interprovincial coordination have been included as members of the board while others include joint secretaries of foreign ministry, aviation division, interior ministry, defence ministry and information ministry.

It adds that provincial ministers or secretaries and representatives from tourism operators, agencies and hotel associations in all four provinces and Azad and Jammu Kashmir as well as Gilgit-Baltistan are also part of the board while private members including Kamran Lashari, Ali Asghar, Aftabur Rehman Rana, Sirajul Malik, Samina Baig, Behram Avari, Muhammad Ayub Baloch, Yasir Rafiq and Zulfiqar Ali are also part of the board.

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