Tourism project at Wagah left hanging by Rangers
By Mohammed Rizwan
LAHORE: A Rs 50 million Punjab government project to build a state of the art entertainment centre at Wagah for tourists has been pending for a year because the Pakistan Rangers are not giving the no objection certificate (NOC), needed for construction.
The Punjab government said that it would give the go ahead once the Rangers approved the site plan and the Asian Development Bank released the funds. “We are waiting for a NOC from the Rangers. The border force has security issues with the plan,” said Mian Aslam Iqbal, tourism minister. “They are concerned that the site falls inside the Indians’ firing line.”
Brigadier Sakhi Jan, Pakistan Rangers deputy director general, said that he had no knowledge about the project. Hussain Mehdi, director general, was out of station and unavailable for comment.
“Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi has taken up the matter personally and will talk to the border authorities directly. The plan has not been dropped, and is now part of the next annual development plan,” said the minister.
The government had said that it was building a tourist resort with a 12-room motel, picnic area, mini-golf course, swimming pool and a conference hall. The project was supposed to take off in November, but so far, there are no signs on the ground.
Irfan Ali, managing director of Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab, confirmed that the work on the project had been stopped. “We cannot proceed without an NOC,” he said.
“The thaw in Indo-Pak relations has put great emphasis on tourism between the two countries. The tourist resort was planned to facilitate tourists who could stay at the border overnight while waiting for clearance,” said Iqbal.
“We hoped that the resort would attract the large number of tourists who come to watch the change of guard ceremony at the border. Once a free trade zone is established, we also expect a high influx of business travellers,” said the minister.
He said that the government knew that the improvement in Indo-Pak relations will provide an opportunity to expand the tourism industry. “Several projects are on the cards to facilitate tourists. We are developing Nankana Sahib. A dual carriage way, four-star hotel, hospital and food street are part of the development efforts there,” said the minister.
“A multi-million rupee theme park with a five star hotel will be another great tourist attraction in the months to come,” said the minister.