LAHORE: On one side, Punjab government makes tall claims of promoting tourism and facilitating the tourists in the province but on the other hand, staff appointed at different historical sites is harassing tourists, especially those visiting from other countries, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Lahore, the provincial capital, has been famous around the world for its historical buildings, monuments and gardens, which facilitated it as an attractive city for the tourists around the world. According to Tourism Development Corporation Punjab (TDCP) officials, over 1.2 million tourists including inbound and outbound reach Lahore annually to visit these historic places.
However, TDCP does not have accurate figures of the tourists visiting the city.
Lahore Fort, Badshahi Mosque, Samadhi of Ranjit Singh, Shalamar Garden, Lahore Museum, Wazir Khan Mosque, Chauburji, Shahi Hamam, Jahangir’s Tomb and the Walled City area of the city are the major tourist destinations in the metropolis.
Since the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) has been established, the Lahore Fort, Shahi Hamam and Walled City fall under its jurisdiction. Likewise, other historic places and monuments are being administrated by Archeology Department. The Islamic shrines and mosques are supervised by Auqaf Department while holy places and monuments fall under the jurisdiction of Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB).
Though a large number of tourists visit such places, most of the times they have to face inconvenience due to the staff appointed there. It has been observed that staff appointed to guide the tourists misbehaved with the visitors, especially with the foreign tourists.
A tourist named Hamza said that he faced humiliation by staff at Shahi Mosque while visiting with his friends from the Netherlands, who came to Lahore especially to visit these places. He said, “I took my friends at Shahi Mosque, but when we were about to leave, we were stopped at the gate and were demanded to pay Rs500. When I enquired the reason for this payment, guards at the gate told me that this was rent for safeguarding our shoes which is to be paid by everyone.”
He further said that no one was paying any penny against safeguarding the shoes, and when he did not agree to pay such amount, they threatened them of dire consequences and asked them to contact Auqaf Department which had appointed them at the gate. “Meanwhile, my foreigner friends were observing the situation and they agreed to pay the said amount. They gave a Rs1,000 note but we did not receive the remaining amount,” he added.
He further informed that they had to face humiliation while visiting the Samadhi of Ranjit Singh when they were stopped at the entrance. “A Muslim man at security asked us to bring our identity documents. When we provided the required stuff, he allowed my friends to go but now me saying that Pakistanis were not allowed to go in,” he said, adding that here too, his foreign friends’ entry was made conditional upon hiring a local guide.
He further said that they had to go back without visiting the place. “I invited my friends to build a soft image of the country, but what we faced was unexpected and demoralising for the tourists,” he said, adding that government should pay attention toward this matter.
Talking to Pakistan Today, the ETPB Spokesman Amir Hashmi said that there was no restriction for anybody to visit any place in Punjab which fell under its jurisdiction. He added that department will investigate the matter and will punish those involved in harassing the tourists.
Officials of Auqaf Department were also contacted but nobody was available for comments.
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