ISLAMABAD: The picturesque Khewra salt mines came alive this Friday as bustling crowds came to attend the First International Rock Salt Trade and Tourism Festival.
The place was abuzz with cordons and high-profile convoys. The narrow road leading to the salt range was crammed with stalls displaying rock salt lamps, a children’s play area with jumping castles, and of course, cars.
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The Punjab government, in an effort to attract international tourists to the salt range, launched the festival at Khewra Salt Mines.
A rubab player welcomed visitors with the tunes of famous Pushto songs, while a flutist sitting nearby chose to stay closer to the town’s own culture, playing famous Punjabi songs.
The famous mosque made out of salt bricks and the miniature Minar-e-Pakistan stood in their full glory,
awing visitors, many of whom had not been to the world’s second largest salt mine before.
“We drove up from Sargodha to visit the mines. The journey was worth it,” said Mrs Adnan. She also appreciated the provincial government’s initiative.
The festival has proven to be a ray of hope for residents of Khewra, who believe that the event will not only help highlight the area, but would also draw attention of the high-ups to assist in its development.
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“The event will have a positive impact on the people living in Khewra. Since most of these people are either labourers or artisans, the festival provides them with an opportunity to display their products and attract foreign tourists,” said Ali Sabih, a local resident.
He further said that it was the need of the hour for the government to make efforts to improve the living conditions in the area and the festival would serve as a stepping stone.
Another local trader, Muhammad Zubair, believed the festival would help attract more tourists. “We get a good number of local tourists, but after the event, we expect foreign tourists to visit the area as well.”
He was of the opinion that highlighting Khewra Salt Mines would eventually lead to foreign investment, consequently assisting in the development of the area.
The government envisions Khewra as a tourist spot and is also banking on the decorative items produced from the mines to become important trade products.
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Federal Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan stated that one of the purposes of the festival was to highlight the products of the salt mine n the international market.
“We want to develop Khewra and export products from the mine,” the minister said at the inauguration ceremony, adding that the government was working to make the most of its resources.
“God has given us a lot of resources. What we lack is good governance that can help us utilise our resources to their full potential”.
He further said that peace was being restored in Pakistan with Balochistan and Karachi becoming more stable, and that Pakistan was on the road to development.
Sri Lankan Ambassador Maj-Gen (retd) Jayanath Lokuketagodage said the festival was a good initiative and that the Sri Lankan government would help Pakistan to organise similar events in the future.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2016.