Dubai: Dubai’s Pakistani community have welcomed Friday’s announcement to ease visa restrictions to the country making it a viable weekend getaway to millions of expatriates living in the UAE.
Citizens from 175 countries can now obtain electronic visas over the internet, while 50 countries, including many western nations, will be able to get visas on arrival rather than through Pakistani embassies abroad.
Just a short 2-3 hours flight from Dubai, Pakistan is well-connected on a daily basis via several airlines in the UAE at a reasonable price, meaning the country could now rival the likes of India, Sri Lanka and Nepal, or Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, as a cheap alternative destination.
It was part of the same hippie trail as India, Nepal, Afghanistan and Iran up until the 1970s before regional instability drew an end to tourism. However, from the world’s second highest mountain, K2, in the north, right down through scenic valleys, deserts and beaches in the south, it potentially has something for everyone.
Fazal Daar, 57, a restaurant manager, originally from Karachi, said: “This is a great development from Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government as it will open the country up to tourism and investment.
“Thirty-five years ago it was the same, but in between the country has been affected by terrorism and instability.
“Tourism was, of course, already happening before this announcement but this will make it easier for people to come and see the country for themselves.
“We have been longing for this to happen and we are desperate to make it a success.”
IK Shinwari, 23, a taxi driver from Kohat, added: “Hopefully this will be the beginning of financial independency for our country, so that many of us will be able to go back.
“It’s truly beautiful and I urge people to visit, we have four seasons and different crops for all seasons, many of which won’t grow elsewhere. The food is amazing and the scenery is fantastic, from snow to beaches, you won’t get bored.”
Is it safe now though? Rahim Mirza, 42, an airline cargo operations manager, originally from Lahore, certainly thinks so.
“We’ve gone through a lot of crisis with corrupt leadership leaving us in a very bad shape on the world map, but this will be huge to promote Pakistan.
“Hesitation may be there from the western world, who see bad images through media, but this is a good step to encourage them to take a look first-hand.
“It’s 100 per cent safe, media may manipulate the perspective to make it negative, but the real picture can be found through travellers on YouTube.com, they’ve had no issues and only have excellent reviews.”
Shenaz Khaliq, 49, a housewife originally from Gujrat, added: “Pakistan is a beautiful country with a very nice and peaceful atmosphere. You need not worry before going as you will have a wonderful holiday. This is something that should have been done 10-20 years ago.”
Meanwhile, Noel Hizkiel, 28, a barber from Lahore, said: “Every country has its problems, but I can tell you it’s not like before. Pakistan is safe and the people are very peace loving to all foreigners. This will give us the opportunity we need to prove that.”