Islamabad: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government will hold Gandhara Festival in first week of April to sensitize the Buddhist countries about their centuries-old heritage scattered across the province.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has emerged as one of the provinces that took lead in boosting religious tourism through inclusive steps, arranging seminars, conferences and visits of monks from the Southeast Asian states. The preparations for the Gandhara festival-cum-conference are being finalized that will help explore the untapped potential of religious tourism in the province, Director Archaeology and Museums Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dr Abdul Samad told this agency.
“Some 100 participants from multiple countries like China, South Korea and Thailand are expected to attend the festival,” he said while pointing out that some 500 Pakistanis were likely to attend the event.
Besides arranging the visits of the international participants to some 20 Buddhist sites in KP, the Gandhara art would also be put on display to draw the visitors” attention towards their heritage owned by the country.
He said the festival would help the province in attracting foreign and local investment in tourism sector, adding that the Buddhist countries could play pivotal role in upgrading their sacred sites spreading across the province.
He said the government had already earmarked Rs1 billion in the current budget to upgrade and preserve the religious sites scattered across the province.
KP Tourism Minister Atif Khan and the Foreign Office were in constant contact with the Buddhist countries to encourage their investment for the preservation of their holy sites, he added.
Samad said the province owned some 6,000 documented religious sites and at the moment, the provincial government was focusing on maintaining 20 sites that were of great importance.
Last year, a number of Buddhist delegations from various countries have visited their sacred sites in the province under a programme launched by the provincial government to arrange the trips of foreign delegations belonging to Buddhism and Sikhism. A delegation of South Korea had also expressed keen interest to set up Gandhara Research for religious tourism promotion.