Colombo: Prime Minister Imran Khan is currently on a two-day official visit to Sri Lanka today. He has been invited by his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa. During the visit, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for tourism was signed between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The Prime Minister’s delegation includes Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Special Adviser to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razaq Dawood, and Special Assistant to the PM for Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari. This is the premier’s first visit to the country since assuming office in 2018.

During his visit, the premier has met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his counterpart Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, and discussed opportunities for trade and tourism.

The Correspondent spoke to the SAPM for Overseas Pakistanis and Tourism Zulfi Bukhari in an exclusive interview, where he detailed the significance of the MoU signed between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The transcript of the conversation is provided below.

The Correspondent: How do you see today’s visit, and its importance towards tourism; how can Pakistani and Sri Lanka benefit from each other’s experience? You have played a significant role [in bringing tourism on the agenda]. 

Zulfi Bukhari: First of all, the Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs), that were pending for a while, were upgraded Alhamdulillah to include an MoU on Tourism Coordination. This would allow us to share the best practices [in the field of tourism] with each other. Between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, 16,000 Pakistanis travelled to Sri Lanka last year, whereas the number of Sri Lankans that came to Pakistan were numbered around 250. 

As you can see, there are pictures here of the Gandhara trial, Buddha trail, sleeping Buddha and Stupas. [The population here] was not aware that the largest trial’s related to Buddha and Buddhism are in Pakistan, which our government has been highlighting internationally. We would work with Sri Lanka with their cooperation, and given the country has a large Buddhist population, we are also interested in seeing an increase in the travel to Pakistan.

Additionally, Sri Lanka had the best practices [worldwide], such as the bubble model, during the corona[virus pandemic]. The Sri Lankan authorities worked very hard on it, especially the Sri Lankan chairperson on tourism. We will have another meeting tomorrow morning, where we aim to get into the details of [such tourism models]. Given Sri Lanka will be touring Pakistan for a cricket series, we [Pakistan and Sri Lanka] want that a number of tourists accompany the touring team. 

Next, we want to facilitate our tour operators in Sri Lanka. I was talking to Mr Razzak Dawood (Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production, and Investment) about this that the tour operators be included in the commerce meeting that he will be having with the Sri Lankan authorities. And this is a breakthrough, for the first time the tour operators from both sides will be included, which helps them collaborate and creates their own tour packages. This is the first time that a Pakistani government is considering tourism as a commerce commodity. Why should tour operators be left behind while other businesses are being included? I think tourism can be the most beneficial and the lowest hanging [fruit], Inshallah.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here