PM Khan's visa policy to open new doors for investors, tourists

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Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing at the launching ceremony of Pakistan online visa system at PM office Islamabad on March 14, 2019. (PID)
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Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing at the launching ceremony of Pakistan online visa system at PM office Islamabad on March 14, 2019. (PID)
Updated 15 March 2019

PM Khan's visa policy to open new doors for investors, tourists

  • In the first phase, citizens of five countries can apply online for a permit
  • Pakistan to also introduce an on-arrival facility for 50 nations at a later stage

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday announced a new visa policy to promote tourism in the country and generate additional revenue to support Pakistan’s ailing economy.

Addressing a ceremony in Islamabad, he welcomed the world to visit Pakistan and described the launch of the country’s visa portal as a “big step” which signified that Pakistan was safe and its security landscape had improved.

Quoting a traditional Chinese proverb on the occasion, he said “to embark on a thousand-mile journey, one has to take the first step.”

The premier also lauded the security forces, saying: "Pakistan has seen tough times in its effort to combat terrorism but the situation today is different.”

He added that the country had maintained a difficult visa policy in the past that involved cumbersome procedures, making international visitors feel “it was better not to visit Pakistan.”

However, he continued that his government had taken “the first step to open up the country, the Naya Pakistan,” saying it would attract more tourists and create new business prospects for everyone.

“Foreign investment will only come to Pakistan if businesses know they can make money here,” Khan said while talking about the country’s tourism potential.

He also hoped that Islamabad’s relations with New Delhi would improve after the Indian elections, hinting that a change in the region’s political environment could invite more backpackers to the country.

Pakistan’s thriving tourism industry in the 1970s suffered astronomically due to political turbulence in the ensuing years. The menace of terrorism, following the 9/11 attacks in the United States, further exacerbated the situation, resulting in strict visa rules that kept many visitors away.

Prior to Khan’s announcement on Thursday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had already informed that the new visa regime would initially allow citizens of the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Malaysia and China to apply for travel permits online or get visas on arrival.

He had also revealed that the facility would also be extended to other countries recognized by Pakistan after the success of the “pilot project.

According to an official handout titled “Pakistan Online Visa System,” the country’s diplomatic missions abroad have been permitted to grant 3-month visit visas while citizens from 96 countries are now eligible to get 5-year multiple-entry business visas.

The handout also maintains that the new policy will extend visa-on-arrival facility to citizens of 50 countries. Apart from that, people of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Malaysia will be able to apply for special 30-day multiple-entry visas. 

“The new visa policy will benefit the whole country,” Owais Usman, director of an Islamabad-based travel and tour company, told Arab News. “More tourism will help different commercial entities – such as hotels, vendors, transport operators, local tour operators – and we may also witness more sports tourism that will give a boost to the economy. It may also help us save some tourist sites and renovate ignored archeological remains of our Mughal, Sikh and Buddhist heritage.”

Retired diplomat, Javed Hafiz, also welcomed the new visa policy, saying: “It is being done for two reasons: One, to create a soft image of Pakistan and tell the world that the country is open to everyone; and, two, to promote tourism and investment which are our requirements, even if other countries don’t extend us reciprocal facilities.”

Sharif's doctor warns of 'life threatening' cardiac, renal conditions if ignored

Updated 3 min 26 sec ago

Sharif's doctor warns of 'life threatening' cardiac, renal conditions if ignored

  • His kidney disease is at stage 3 with kidney function further deteriorating, claims daughter
  • Punjab government spokesman says Sharif’s health stable, government providing all necessary medical facilities

LAHORE: The personal physician of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday said that Sharif was at the risk of developing “life threatening” cardiac and renal conditions even as a spokesman for the Punjab government said the jailed ex-premier’s health was stable and he was receiving the necessary medical attention.

Sharif is currently serving a seven-year sentence imposed last year for failing to disclose the source of income that allowed him to acquire the Al-Azizia Steel Mills in Saudi Arabia. He has appealed.

“The medical condition of Mian Nawaz Sharif is worsening,” his personal physician Dr. Adnan Khan told Arab News. “Turning a blind eye to the situation and [having a] callous attitude towards his health can lead to life threatening health issues, cardiac and renal both,” he said.

Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz has tweeted several times in recent days demanding that he be treated by doctors of his choice.

“Just got back after meeting MNS [Mian Nawaz Sharif],” she said in a Twitter post on March 23. “His doctor’s concern was not unfounded. The blood tests done yesterday reveal a further raise in his CREATININE levels which means his kidney function has deteriorated. His kidney disease is already at stage 3. The pain in the flanks persists.”

Dr. Shahbaz Gill, a spokesman for the Punjab government, denied that Sharif was being neglected by authorities and said his health was stable.

“The health condition of Mian Nawaz Sharif was satisfactory and the government was providing every possible facility to him,” Gill said in a video message on twitter. “He (Nawaz Sharif) always has a choice to get examined by any doctor in any hospital of Pakistan at any time.”

A urologist appointed by the Punjab government to examine the jailed former prime minister said in his report: “All lab investigations are within normal limits.”

The Punjab Minister for Health, Dr. Yasmeen Rashed, has also said reports pertaining to Sharif’s kidneys were “okay.”

Last month, Sharif was sent back to jail from the Services Hospital in Lahore after he refused to be shifted to any of the three health facilities offered by the Punjab government.

Members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party accuse the Sharif family of using Sharif’s health as a ruse to get him out of the country. However, the family has been insisting for weeks that he is seriously ill and not receiving the necessary care.

On Monday, while speaking to journalists in Islamabad, Prime Minister Imran Khan asked why the Sharifs, who had ruled the country in the center and the Punjab province for decades, did not "build one hospital where they themselves could be treated," criticizing the former premier's demand of getting medical treatment in London.