Pakistan, A Treasure Trove of Wonders. But do we care!

The magnificent architecture: of the Shrine of Hazrat Shah Rukn-e-Alam in Multan attracts visitors from almost every corner of the world

Nayyar Hashmey

The Indus Valley occupies a unique place on the world map as the birth place of civilisation. Previously, it was one of the four principal sites where humanity got its birth. However, after explorations done at Mehrgarh by French Archeologist J.F. Jarrige, with amazement learnt the world, of a highly startling fact that first urban settlement on this planet rose in c. 7000 BC in the Kachhi plain of Balochistan. Then the rise of Muslims in the early eighth century in the region yielded a new form of architecture that has the potential even today to attract people from all over the world.

With such prideful history and heritage the country has the right potential to become world’s choice as a top tourist destination.

Till 2006 Pakistan had a regular inflow of tourists. Though meager, yet with a very poor infra structure, no publicity, no brand image and to that a highly unprofessional approach by tourism authorities especially the Babu’s of our tourism ministry and its ancillary corporations, even that meager amount of inbound tourism was not bad (while visiting Pakistan; in 2006, the foreign tourists spent over one million US dollars). However, tourism met a serious jolt when the US and the EU countries put Pakistan on a negative advisory list (even though the country from day one has been aligned to the west in its war against terror). Ever since then the tourism sector has almost come to a halt. Surprisingly countries like Sri Lanka and India where terrorism also takes its toll were not at all put to such restriction.

Another important aspect which we need to consider is what I then described in my first post to our readers last year:-

“Why have certain countries monopolized tourism when geographical, historical and climatic components might suggest that the story should be otherwise? And is tourism a form of natural wealth, like oil, or is it like electronics, somewhat less tangible?”

One ought to admit that

Tourism is indeed a natural wealth like oil and other mineral products. The difference between tourism and mineral products like oil, however, is that the latter is carried out from its source to be manufactured somewhere else and its products are sold to the country of origin. In contrast components necessary for tourism already exist within the land, its rivers, its mountains, beaches, and so on – and in the landmarks of its peoples’ history and culture, most parts of which have been seized and taken out to benefit other people and countries.

Instead of preserving our heritage, antiquities, landmarks and other components of our own tourist wealth, we have used spades to destroy them setting up concrete blocks under the concept of modernization and development.


Gurdwara Janam Asthan in Nankana Sahib. A perpetual atmosphere of holiness prevails around this building.

Again, let us compare between the revenue of tourist industries and the revenue of other industries such as oil and electronics. We find that the revenue of tourism is distributed among a great number of people of the country that is visited. In case of oil, electronics, and other industries, revenue is restricted to a handful of individuals and governments.

In light of the above, we can easily infer that the trickledown economy about which such loud talk is going down the round, tourism benefits everybody. Being indigenous, it benefits the local populations especially youth who get clean income from a tourism oriented local economy and are thus less prone to be trapped into extremists’ hands, something which puts the whole world on its hold today.

Today, tourism plays an integral role in a country’s economy, its society, and culture. During last decade, tourism has changed from the activity of small elite to a mass phenomenon spurred by thriving economies. Improved transportation, national pride and increased desire to escape the pressures of modern life, all have exacerbated the peoples’ will to see other lands, other cultures. In the next two decades, the fruits of high growth rates in national economies of major welfare states including the tigers in the Far East will further enhance the environment for tourism as more people will possess time, money and opportunity for a recreational travel.

Tourism is vitalfor Pakistan’s economy also because it has a tremendous potential to generate revenue through cultural tourism which includes urban tours, visiting historical or interesting sites, cities and experiencing their cultural heritage. This type of tourism may also include specialized cultural experience like visiting an art museum, a mausoleum or a religious shrine.


Dancing on the mountains: The Shandur Pass in Chitral Valley

With the adventof e-commerce, tourism products have become one of the most traded items on the net. Now tourism products and services have been made available through intermediaries while tourism providers (tour operators, travel agents, hotels, airlines etc.) can sell their services directly as well as through intermediaries, both online and or traditional shops.

Shandur: the highest polo ground in the world

Being endowed with a cultural heritage that ranks high among the richest ones in the world, telling mankind’s story spread over half a million years, Pakistan has many plus’s on this count.

The archeological items of immense value excavated by archaeologists in the Soan Vally, Pothohar area, and  at Sanghao cave, in Sukkur-Rohri etc. vividly present the formative stages of cultural evolution in the South Asian subcontinent. Then the archeological excavations at Naushero / Mehrgarh in Kachhi district of Balochistan reveal a culture preceding the mature phase of chalcolithic period in the Indus Valley or Harappan civilization. The two metropolitan cities Harappa and Mohenjo Daro – though more than four hundred kilometers apart – present a model of planned cities with a particular emphasis on civic amenities and considerations for comfort and security. The systematic archaeological investigation and excavations, carried on Pakistan’s cultural map, have revealed scores of sites belonging to this period which are spread over the vast plains stretching even across the Indian border.

The magnificent Indus Valley civilisation died out around 1500 BC. Though archaeologists are still pondering over the question of how did it go into oblivion almost suddenly, all agree that natural or human disaster gave it such a blow – or even series of blows – that the valley’s peaceful people could not survive. The land seems to have had inhabitations, though in degenerated shape, even after this catastrophic phase. The phase is named as the Gandhara Grave Culture from the fact that it was first confirmed in the graves found in the Gandhara region, especially in Pakistan’s northern areas.

The land can rightly boast of its richness found in sites and monuments belonging to the highly expressive Buddhist art now termed as the Gandhara Art. Covering about a span of one thousand years, the art basically revolved around the Buddhist religion. City sites, stupas and monasteries belonging to its mature period represent some of the best examples of civic planning. The architectural decorative art, beautifully carved stone pieces, stucco specimens depicting religious and secular figures and other architectural elements adorn both religious and secular buildings.


The Mazar of Bibi Jawindi in Uch Sharif

The Huns are said to be responsible for the complete annihilation of such a remarkable culture. Once again, perhaps, the peace-loving Buddhists of Gandhara were no match to the Central Asian barbarians often described as ‘marching with swords in one hand and fire in the other.’

Hardly a century later, in AD 711, the subcontinent witnessed the armies of a young Muslim Arab, Mohammad bin Qasim, invading through Sindh which was later known as “Bab-ul- Islam.” The advent of Islam influenced every aspect of life. Muslim traditions began getting reflected in architecture, fine arts and other areas of cultural activity, thus completely transforming peoples’ lifestyle in this region. This influence, coupled with the Muslim traditions of Central Asia, gave birth to some masterpieces in the building art that include mosques, mausoleums, pleasure gardens, forts and other spheres of cultural heritage.

All these wonders are a treasure trove of attractions which can easily motivate our foreign guests throng Pakistani airports and bus terminals. But what we need is to market these wonders, something which we never did before, but we must do NOW.

Photo Credits: The photos on top and at bottom by Nadeem Khawar



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7 replies to “Pakistan, A Treasure Trove of Wonders. But do we care!

  1. Agreed we have a beautiful Pakistan to showcase. Now the next step is how to practically promote Pakistan for tourism. My suggestion is that we target to promote local tourism. If all the touristic spots ofPakistan can be made affordably accessible to the common lower-to-upper middle class Pakistanis, imagine how much the tourism industry can flourish. This is what happens in great touristic countries like USA and in Europe too.

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