It may be hard to remember now, but there was a time when Pakistan was an important tourist destination. In the 1960s and 1970s, we were part of the acclaimed hippie trail when backpackers from Europe would cross the Khyber Pass and make their way through Peshawar, Chitral and Karachi. Now, ranked by the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, we are 122 out of 140 tourism countries. That is actually an improvement of three ranking points compared to last year, but if this is a victory for us, it is purely a pyrrhic. There are many reasons for the decline of tourism, but none is greater than the insecurity that plagues the country. From Kashmir to the northern areas and from Fata to Swat, it is simply not safe for foreigners to come and experience the best that the country has to offer.

The security problem would spoil every country trying to promote tourism, but our governments have hardly helped in recent years. Many of our museums are virtually empty because our heritage has been looted by private collectors who can easily smuggle items out of the country or exhibit them at home. The ancient civilizations of Mohenjodaro and Harappa have not received the attention of the government they should have and are therefore crumbling before our eyes. It took the government more than 10 years to submit a list of heritage sites to UNESCO so that it could receive money for maintenance and maintenance. Even then it left out many Mughal palaces, forts and tombs. A separate tourism ministry was established in 2004 to promote tourism in the country, but almost 10 years later it is safe to say that it has not been a success at all.