The interest shown by the
Pakistani High Commissioner Shazad Choudry to promote tourism
between Sri Lanka and Pakistan should engage the attention of
the authorities here.
According to the HC this would in addition to strengthening
existing ties between the two countries also open up many
He also proposed to increase the weekly flights between the
two countries shortly to facilitate more travel between the two
countries. It is revealed that only around 4,800 Lankans visit
Pakistan annually and the HC hopes this number would increase in
the near future.
Pakistan has always remained a close ally of Sri Lanka and
was among the few countries who came to our assistance in our
battle against terrorism. Besides it has been a constant trade
partner of Sri Lanka and always stood by us in times of
Hence it is intriguing to note that there had been no
perceptible moves to foster more people to people contact
between the two countries as seen from the meagre traffic to and
fro. It is as if we remember Pakistan only when we are in need
of assistance or when there is a cricket match between the two
countries. For the rest of the time it had remained on the
India has proved to be a popular destination among Lankans.
This may be due to many shared features between the two
countries culturally and also India’s allure in a material
sense. Then there is also the Maldives that is regularly
promoted as an idyllic tourist destination.
All this may have pushed Pakistan somewhat out of the radar
from a Sri Lankan’s point of view and it is in this context the
High Commissioner’s yearning to expand existing ties through the
medium of tourism between the two countries should be viewed.
To begin with there should be a joint campaign to educate the
Sri Lankan public about the many attractions in Pakistan
including its ancient Buddhist civilisation and also other
The Tourism Ministry should step into market Pakistan as a
popular destination for it could be certain of reciprocal
benefits going by the enthusiasm of the Pakistani High
Commissioner to take the exiting relationship between the two
SAARC members to a higher plane. Travel agencies too should be
brought into the picture to issue brochures to get more Lankans
to visit Pakistan.
It must not be forgotten that Pakistan was part of India
before partition and shared a common heritage at one time. This
is underscored by the presence of Buddhist monuments of great
significance in that country that speaks of this common
However while our Buddhist pilgrims flock to Buddhagaya and
Kapilawasthu in large numbers not much is known about the traces
of Buddhism in Pakistan, especially in the Gandhara region.
This is perhaps why the High Commissioner stated that in
their promotional campaign they were planning to make Sri
Lankans aware of the important Buddhist sites in the country in
order to attract many tourists to Pakistan.
We on our part should conduct a parallel campaign to put
Pakistan on the map for Lankan visitors by highlighting these
features so that there would be more people to people contact
between the two SAARC members.
Our news story yesterday in the
inside pages which states that the joint project launched by the
Agricultural Ministry with the Prisons Department to deploy
prisoners to cultivate fallow land, is going apace with success
is certainly a landmark in our prisoner rehabilitation
The authorities should be lauded for introducing such a
concept by which it is hoped prisoners would mend themselves and
re-enter society as worthy citizens. It is no secret that today
a majority of our prisoners languishing behind bars were driven
to their misdemeanours by poverty. There are also those convicts
to whom the prison is like their second home. They keep
returning after undergoing a relapse so to speak.
Whatever the reasons it is the ultimate responsibility of the
authorities to ensure all prisoners are properly rehabilitated
keeping in mind that they too formed part of our community
before straying from the accepted path.
The nature of crime too has varied to a considerable degree
with a sizable segment of our prisons comprising those who had
engaged in white collar crime. Therefore, there is need to
consider their plight in a dispassionate manner and a method
devised to ensure their speedy rehabilitation.
There have been many schools of thought among sociologists on
the feasibility of holding prisoners incommunicado.
They are in favour of the path of rehabilitation of prisoners
rather than confinement. The concept of incarceration as a means
of corrective action in undergoing change in this modern age
with the accent now more on rehabilitation and re-integration
and we too should explore that possibility.