Battered Pakistan tourism industry looks to Sri Lanka example

KARACHI, March 12, 2009 (AFP) – Fida Hussain, 52, was once a frequent visitor to Pakistan’s scenic northwest, driving north into the mountains every time he flew over from the United States. But not any more. “I won’t go to Swat or any other place in the area as the Taliban rule there now and no one is guaranteed safety,” Hussain said.

Thousands of fighters loyal to firebrand Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah have waged a blistering campaign to enforce sharia, or traditional religious law in Swat valley, once affectionately known as the Switzerland of Pakistan.

“I last went three years ago — it was heaven on earth, with a beauty beyond imagination. Now all is doomed,” Hussain said on a recent visit to relatives in Pakistan’s financial capital of Karachi.

He is just one among many thousands who have scratched Pakistani resorts from their holiday wish-lists — and in doing so ensuring that the tourism sector adds to the country’s growing economic woes.

The bloody attack on touring Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore this month was just the latest high-profile militant attack in an avalanche of violence that has killed more than 1,600 people since July 2007.

The World Economic Forum’s Tra