by Ceylon Daily News
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 opportunities economically.
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 distress.
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 fringes.
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 landmarks.
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 civilisation.
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 programmes.
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.