Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday launched the country's innovative online visa system, making it easy for the citizens of 175 countries to get the visa from their home in a bid to boost tourism and business.
"This is a first step and reflective of the confidence of the country as it opens its doors for investors, entrepreneurs, tourists and students; inviting them to come to visit Pakistan," he told a gathering comprising a large number of diplomats here at the auditorium of the Prime Minister's Office.
The prime minister earlier launched a portal with the press of a button that would allow travellers to submit their details, documents and make online payment to get the visa in seven to ten days and said the new system had done away with the earlier mind-set which discouraged the foreigners to visit Pakistan.
Quoting a Chinese saying, "To take a thousand mile journey, you have to take a first step," Imran said that Pakistan had rich cultural heritage, world's highest peaks, diversity of landscape, four seasons, desert and beaches.
"We have double the size of land in Northern Areas than Switzerland with bewitching beauty," he said and recalled how his teacher Major (retired) Geoffrey Douglas Langlands instilled in him the love of trekking and appreciation of natural beauty of the country.
The prime minister said that Pakistan had large areas of hidden beauty and pointed out that a tourism task force had been constituted that would also focus on eco and religious tourism.
Mentioning the importance of religious tourism, he said Pakistan had sacred Buddhist sites, besides those for Sikhs, Hindus and the Sufis. He called for urgent measures to boost beach tourism and preservation of old cities like Peshawar, Lahore, Multan and others.
The online visa system has initially been launched for China, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and Malaysia.
The new system has simplified the processing of visa to "promote tourism and generate economic activity" and would also make it easy for citizens of 96 countries to get a work visa for business purpose.
The duration of diplomatic and student visas has been extended, however the visa for religious purpose will remain valid for 45 days.
A visa-on-arrival facility has been introduced for tourists of 50 countries, besides a business visa-on-arrival facility extended for citizens of 96 countries.
Those seeking on-arrival visa will be able to apply for electronic travel authorisation at least 48 hours prior to travel and will be issued visa at the port of entry.
The visa-on-arrival facility will also be provided to British and American citizens.
Imran said Pakistan needed to properly market its skiing resorts, and other areas of natural beauty and directed the country's missions abroad to be more proactive.
"Pakistan today is a secure country, and has embarked on a journey of peace," he added.
Imran announced holding of the next Pakistan Super League within Pakistan and said, "I know how boring it is to play a match in a stadium with hundreds of vacant seats."
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