Sikh, Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religious sites in Pakistan on verge of extinction for want of upkeep

Islamabad: As the development of tourism infrastructure largely remaining unambitious in Pakistan, religious sites of Sikhs, Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists are in a state of “deterioration and will likely become unsalvageable in the near future,” local media reported.

Recently, Pakistan President Arif Alvi had said that the tourism sector played a vital role in Islamabad’s economic development and is an integral source of income for the people as well as relevant to the improvement of civic facilities in the far-flung areas of Pakistan.

However, the development of tourism infrastructure largely remains unambitious in Pakistan despite continuous efforts over the past few decades, according to a report in The Express Tribune.

Archaeologist and former director of Punjab Archeology, Afzal Khan, said even though some religious sites of Sikhs, Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists have been developed in recent times “many of them are still in a state of deterioration and will likely become unsalvageable in the near future.” Khan further said that the real potential of religious tourism in the country remained unexplored.

The report stated that a majority of historical and religious sites across the country are “not only difficult to reach but many also lack basic amenities like restrooms.”

“There are only a few cities, such as Lahore, Nankana Sahib, Multan, and Kasur, where public transportation is accessible for visiting holy sites; however, if you wish to travel from Lahore to Kartarpur or Katas Raj, you have to have a car or must rent one,” the report quoted a local as saying.

The person added that places like Kartarpur and Katas Raj don’t even have lodging options.

Another person noted, “I have been to nearly all of Pakistan’s significant historic and holy places and public transport was not available for 80 per cent of them.”

A shared feature in all the sites the person visited was the “lack of functional restrooms and exploitative lodging and food prices,” the report stated.

“Even the road infrastructure is quite poor. Like the main road leading to Kartarpur Sahib has massive potholes. Furthermore, some sites of Hindus and Jains are completely devoid of any governmental attention. So we are a long way off from promoting tourism,” the person said.

Not just the locals, the tour guides in Pakistan also resonate similar sentiments.

“Some crucial factors for sightseers are: How safe the place is and how simple it is to get to? What services, such as tour guides, are offered locally and how welcoming are the locals to visitors? Likewise, how well-organized the local transportation options are and the availability of a health care system?” said a tour guide from Lahore.

He added, “Most of our tourist destinations overcharge and mistreat visitors. They lack basic amenities. So vacations usually become horror stories.”

(With inputs from agencies)

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