Prince William and his wife Kate arrive to attend an event in Islamabad. File/ AFP
Tariq Butt, Staff Reporter
More than six months after British Airways resumed operations to Pakistan, the United Kingdom has relaxed its travel advisory for the country in a major step welcomed by Islamabad as great news.
The UK changed its travel advice for Pakistan in almost five years, allowing its citizens to travel by road to the north of Pakistan as well as the scenic Kalash and Bamboret valleys, the UK High Commission in Islamabad said.
The first major update of the travel advice by Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) since 2015 is the result of a comprehensive review of Pakistan’s security situation based on a wide-ranging assessment of the country’s security situation.
Pakistan has made tremendous strides towards bettering the internal security situation. In June, British Airways resumed operations to Pakistan after 11 years of suspension, when the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner touched down at Islamabad International Airport.
In October, Pakistan rolled out red carpet for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as the royal couple undertook an array of engagements over five days, which took them as far as Chitral.
A statement issued by the British High Commission mentioned the return of British Airways to Pakistan and the visit by Prince William and his wife Catherine, as major milestones in the "improved security situation” in Pakistan.
"The improved security situation allowed for the return of British Airways to Pakistan in June 2019 and the visit by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in October 2019,” it said. "Among other changes, the advice now allows for travel by road to the North of Pakistan as well as the Kalash and Bamboret Valleys.”
The announcement follows the arrival of Dr Christian Turner, as the new high commissioner to Pakistan. "Following my arrival in December 2019, I made this review of the travel advice a priority,” the statement quoted Turner as saying.
"It is great credit to the hard work of the Government of Pakistan in delivering improved security over the past five years. I am delighted that British nationals will be able to see more of what Pakistan has to offer,” he added.
Previously, Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice put travel restriction on the full route from Islamabad to Gilgit.
However, the new update reduces the restriction on section of the Karakoram Highway between Mansehra and Chilas alone. "Travellers may bypass this section by taking the alternative route through the Kaghan Valley and Babusar Pass,” it said.
The FCO advised against all travel to most of Balochistan, including Quetta. "This is except for the southern coast of Balochistan, including the city of Gwadar, where the FCO advises against all but essential travel,” it added.
The instant announcement was warmly welcomed by the Pakistani leadership, who described it as a major step towards the government’s efforts to boost tourism, attract foreign investment and further strengthen relations with the UK.
"This is great news as it will address two most important economic issues facing Pakistan today: employment & our current account deficit, by bringing in tourism & investment which in turn will provide employment opportunities especially for our youth,” Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also lauded the announcement. "This change in travel advice is encouraging and will further strengthen Pakistan-UK relations,” he wrote in a tweet.
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To expand the tourism sector and attract more tourists from around the world the government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken a number of steps to facilitate all those who desire to explore Pakistan hidden treasures across the country.
The well wishers attended a banquet Iftar held by Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed on this occasion.
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