Sardar Popalzai, president of the Balochistan Economic Forum, talks about the blue economy and the Pakistani province’s tourism potential.

Q: What does Balochistan offer to visitors?

A: To start, Balochistan is a province with nearly 2800km of coast, with beautiful beaches and warm water that can compare to any world-class beaches worldwide like Dubai or Tunisia. We have beautiful mountains with much higher peaks than those in the Muree and Punjab regions, including the Sulaiman range which connects us religiously to one of our prophets and is home to the Mehgarh, one of the oldest civilisations in the world. We are also home to the second-largest juniper forest in the world which is more than 7000 years old, and I was told that the juniper fragrance is very healthy for people with asthma or other problems because of air. I think international companies from Singapore are looking to set up a hospital here which can bring hospital tourism into the area too, so there are lots of varied opportunities in the mountains as well as blue tourism and coastal tourism. 

Q: How are FDI prospects in Pakistan, and in particular in Balochistan?

A: There are a lot of incentives, a lot of prospects for world-class hotels, lodges, and opportunities even in the aviation industry. Unfortunately, security reasons have caused an obstacle to both tourism and FDI, but now there is excitement as our country is learning and organising to welcome more foreign investors. Many of the major countries who previously issued advice to not come to Pakistan have now lowered or removed their risk signals and told people it is safer to visit us. Foreign investors can teach us, we want to learn how to put proper policies in place for them and secure our areas.

Balochistan’s biggest economic sector is mining: we have world-class building stones like marble and granite, and Balochistan also has the world’s largest lead and zinc ore deposits, and other metallic minerals such as iron and chromite. I recall a US official who declared that Afghanistan has $1bn-worth of mineral resources, and I would claim that Balochistan itself has more tha $2bn-worth of resources available.

Another sector which has come up is livestock, Balochistan is mountainous but has good agriculture and good greenery, and livestock is of good quality so its halal meat can be very popular to export, especially to the Arab world where there is mostly desert. 

Q: How has the government helped make Pakistan a more attractive location for FDI?

A: First, the government has taken strategic decisions to help dissolve many of the security risks which deterred tourists from coming to Pakistan previously. Major countries’ advisories have now removed or lowered their risk signals and told people it is no longer unsafe to visit Pakistan. 

With the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, we are also seeing more tourists coming to Pakistan from China. Although it is not such a big number, they have historical links with Pakistan and will be pleased to come, especially to the Sindh province which connects Pakistan to China. Alongside the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, our government is working hard to improve the connectivity of the provinces. The improved railways and motorways will help the flow of domestic tourism as well as international tourism. 

There are new excitements in the tourism sector as Pakistan’s Tourism Development Corporation has been given a fund of a few billion rupees to promote tourism. Under the 18th Amendment, tourism has been diverted to the provinces and the federal government will partner with them to promote tourism effectively. So now there are new policies, new signals and there is excitement in the tourism sector. I appeal to my foreign friends, I appeal to investors, please do not go on stories of security fears about Pakistan that may have deterred visitors before. I believe the tourism sector will boom in Pakistan, and if people come in from other parts of the world they are most welcome to live here and invest here. 

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
fDi Magazine

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