ISLAMABAD: Pakistan announced to introduce on-arrival visas for 50 countries and e-visas for 175 countries in a bid to revive tourism in the country.
Speaking to the media in Islamabad, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said citizens from 50 countries will be granted visas on arrival while 175 countries will be granted the e-visa facility, as Pakistan looks to woo visitors to witness its scenic beauty and cultural diversity.
He further said that Indian-origin British, US passport-holders will be granted on-arrival visas to Pakistan.
The minister said IATA-approved tour operators can now bring tourist groups to the country under the new policy which, he said, will usher in a new era of progress and prosperity in the country.
“We want to make ‘Naya Pakistan’ a heaven for tourists,” Chaudhry said.
Business visas will now be provided to citizens of 96 countries, an increase from the previous 68 countries. The business visas will be stamped in eight to ten days, he said.
Chaudhry said the duration of diplomatic visas has been extended from one year to three years, while that of students’ visas to two years from one year.
Tourists can now visit all parts of the country including open cantonments, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. They are no longer required to obtain any NOC, the minister added.
He said that journalist visas will now be processed through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and they will also be given long-term visas without any curbs.
The new visa regime was approved in a meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Thursday.
Potentially restarting tourism has been one of the most talked about parts of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision for Pakistan during his government’s tenure.
Pakistan was last a prominent tourist destination in the 1970s when the “hippie trail” brought Western travellers through the apricot and walnut orchards of the Swat Valley and Kashmir on their way to India and Nepal.
Since then, a deteriorating security situation chipped away at the number of visitors.
Following Pakistan’s participation in the US-led war in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, the country was rocked by a decade of regular large-scale attacks.
Security has since improved dramatically, with attacks down sharply in the country of 208 million people.
Visitors to the country, however, often complained of an arduous visa process, but this looks to change soon with the easing of visa restrictions.