More than one million NRIs based in the USA and the UK will be able to visit Pakistan more freely and easily for the government of that country has decided to extend visa-on-arrival facility to British and US citizens of Indian origin under its new and what was described as a 'revolutionary visa regime facility' to project soft image of the country.
The number of countries for business visa facility would also be extended from the existing 68 to 96 countries.
The best part of the new visa policy announced by Pakistan's Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain was that those visiting Pakistan on a tourist visa would now be allowed to visit all parts of the country, including the earlier restricted areas like POK and Gilgit-Balistan, sans any No Objection Certificate.
The maximum benefit of the visa on arrival facility would be for those close to one million Sikhs and Hindus of Indian origin who were citizens of the USA and the UK for they will be able to visit Sikh and Hindu shrines more easily. Earlier, it took a long one to two months' period for them for obtaining visas for Pakistan.
The American Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the Sikh Coordination Committee of East Coast have hailed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government's initiative.
"It will be a major relief for Sikhs and Hindus who have been yearning to pay obeisance at different shrines in Pakistan. We welcome the initiative. At the same time, we demand that the visa on arrival facility should also be extended to people of India, particularly the Sikhs, so that they will be able to visit holy places in Pakistan with ease," said Pritpal Singh, coordinator of the American Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, while talking to The Tribune from the US.
Visa policy for journalists was also being relaxed as Pakistan's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting would be processing the visa applications of journalists. The existing restriction of visiting only a few cities would also be waived alongwith issuance of long-term visas.
Under the new policy, citizens from 175 countries would have e-visa facility while citizens of 50 countries would enjoy visa on arrival facility.
The IATA registered tour operators would be authorised to arrange visits of tourists groups in Pakistan as the government of Pakistan intended to develop tourism in the countries on Malaysian and Turkey models to attract maximium revenue from tourism sector.