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Pakistan Planning to Ease its Visa Policy

Security has since improved dramatically, with militant attacks down sharply in the mainly Muslim country of 208 million people

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Pakistan
FILE - A tourist is seen visiting the national heritage museum in Islamabad, Pakistan, Aug. 2, 2017.

Pakistan is planning to ease visa restrictions for visitors from 55 countries, including most European nations, in a bid to revive tourism that was devastated by Islamist violence in the fallout from the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

“We are reviewing our visa policies. We are trying to bring 55 countries into a visa-free region, which includes most of the European countries,” Pakistan’s information minister, Fawad Chaudhry, told Reuters.

That comes after Portugal this month declared Pakistan safe for travel, while France has also relaxed its advisory on travel to the South Asian nation

“I’m happy our (travel) advisories are changing,” Chaudhry said.

Potentially restarting tourism has been one of the most talked about parts of new Prime Minister Imran Khan’s push to create an Islamic welfare state in Pakistan, but visitors to the country often complain of an arduous visa process.

Former Real Madrid soccer stars Kaka of Brazil and Portuguese playmaker Luis Figo were recently denied visas to the country for a promotional visit, Chaudhry said, highlighting the nation’s laborious visa process.

Pakistan
FILE – A man rides the chairlift at the ski resort in Malam Jabba, Pakistan, Feb. 7, 2017.

“We refused a visa to Kaka and Figo. Can you believe that? I called the section officer and he never heard of … Kaka,” Chaudhry said, laughing. “I spoke to the interior secretary yesterday and gave him a piece of my mind.”

Pakistan was last a prominent tourist destination in the 1970s when the “hippie trail” brought Western travelers through the apricot and walnut orchards of the Swat Valley and Kashmir on their way to India and Nepal.

Since then, a deteriorating security situation and the imposition of a harsh interpretation of Islamic laws has chipped away at the number of visitors.

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Following Pakistan’s participation in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, the country was rocked by a decade of regular large-scale militant attacks.

Security has since improved dramatically, with militant attacks down sharply in the mainly Muslim country of 208 million people.

British Airways on Tuesday announced it would resume flights to Pakistan next year after a 10-year absence that followed a major hotel bombing, becoming the first Western airline to restart such flights. (VOA)

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Pakistan Occupied Kashmir Areas Feature in New Political Map Released by Government

In a gazette notification, the government also enumerated the territories in Leh district as: "Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilas, Tribal territory

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Pakistan, Kashmir, Political
The Ladakh UT consists of two districts -- Kargil and Leh -- while the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory comprises 20 districts. Pixabay

In the wake of the creation of separate Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, the government on Saturday released a new political map of the Indian Union, with 28 States and nine Union Territories (UTs). Pakistan.

The new map denotes the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and surprisingly includes three districts — Muzaffarabad, Punch and Mirpur — which are under Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Pakistan, Kashmir, Political
New Political Map of India. PIB

The Ladakh UT consists of two districts — Kargil and Leh — while the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory comprises 20 districts.

In a gazette notification, the government also enumerated the territories in Leh district as: “Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilas, Tribal territory and Leh and Ladakh, except the present territory of Kargil.”

Pakistan, Kashmir, Political
The new map denotes the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and surprisingly includes three districts — Muzaffarabad, Punch and Mirpur — which are under Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). Pixabay

The order was called the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Removal of Difficulties) Second Order, 2019.

The map of J&K UT comprises 20 districts, including Muzzarfarabad, Mirpur and the area of Poonch which are under PoK.

In 1947, the former Jammu and Kashmir state had 14 districts — Kathua, Jammu, Udhampur, Reasi, Anantnag, Baramulla, Poonch, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Leh and Ladakh, Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilhas and Tribal Territory.

On the recommendation of the Parliament, President Ram Nath Kovind effectively abrogated Article 370 from the Indian Constitution and issued the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, in August.

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On October 31, J&K ceased to exist as a state and was officially bifurcated into two UTs — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. (IANS)