By Our Staff Correspondent
ISLAMABAD: The Peter Virdee Foundation (PVF) and some Sikh businessmen, living in the United Kingdom have announced to donate £500 million (Rs 96.5 billion) to refurbish and restore their religious sites in Pakistan.
The commitment was made by the PVF, a non-governmental organization, working for marginalized sections of the society, in a meeting with Chairman National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB) Sayed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari in London.
Zulfikar Bukhari, talking to APP by phone from London, said the PVF’s announcement for setting up the £500 million fund depicted how the Pakistan government was channelising available resources for effectively promoting religious tourism in the country.
Earlier this year, Zulfikar Bukhari said, he had briefed the British Sikh Foundation, heads of different Gurdwaras and business tycoons about the prime minister’s desire to promote religious tourism and develop Sikh Gurdwaras and other religious sites in Pakistan.
“The Pakistan tourism industry scores a huge win due to the efforts of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government which is much ambitious to unlock the potential of this sector, unlike previous regimes,” he remarked.
With this initiative, he said, tens of thousands of Sikh pilgrims would visit Pakistan each year that would eventually help promote interfaith harmony.
In order to facilitate pilgrimage in Pakistan, Zulfi said the government was working on visa facilitation by giving online visa and visa on arrival, establishment of tourism desks at Pakistani embassies and dedicated staff for the purpose.
He said the government was also working to develop a Buddhist trail by exploring religious sites in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab to attract the followers of Buddhism from across the globe.
The trail having numerous Buddhist sites, would start from Swat and culminate at Taxila, Zulfi informed.
Such endeavours, he said, would help translate the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan regarding religious tourism into a reality by showcasing non-Islamic heritage to the world. They would also project a soft pluralistic image of Pakistan internationally, he added. He said everyone in the country could practice his religion freely as per the vision of Pakistan’s forefathers and that of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was a strong proponent to make the country a welfare state on the pattern of Sate of Madina.
Meanwhile, Gurjeet Singh of Sikh Federation, a non-governmental organisation working to promote Sikh issues, has confirmed to the foreign media about the development.
He said money was not an issue for the Sikh community as they could even lay down their lives for their Gurdwaras. In another development, the PTI government has earmarked Rs 1,000 million for land acquisition and development of infrastructure of Kartarpur under Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for the next financial year 2019-20.