“Pakistan is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It has an extensive history, rich culture, unique heritage, incredibly diverse landscapes and breathtaking natural beauty,” he says. “But, Pakistan’s image has severely deteriorated over the past few years due to instability in the country and many countries declaring Pakistan as unsafe and dangerous to visit. Foreign tourists stopped visiting and even local people are afraid to travel around the country for recreation and leisure while some simply prefer to spend holidays outside Pakistan.” While abroad in Germany, Greece and Austria, Saqib met fellow European travel enthusiasts. “I’ve been told by fellow travellers that their priority is to explore and see their own country first, and then go anywhere else because they want to invest their money in their own country instead of spending their money abroad and they want to understand who they are and where they come from before going to learn about others.” This perplexed and disheartened Saqib.
“That’s not fair and it really hurts me. Pakistan is home to beautiful, hospitable, generous and peace-loving people, and is a land of spectacular and stunning places, but it lacks good branding. The country deserves to be explored, even by its own people at the very least.” This inspired Saqib to begin something astounding.
In mid-February, Saqib set off on what he calls a “journey consisting of a chain of journeys” to canvas, photograph, and upload the entirety of Pakistan to Wikimedia Commons, and Wikivoyage in an effort to alter Pakistan’s dubious image. Already, Saqib has traveled to the Kirthar National Park in southwest Pakistan, and created its article on Wikivoyage, which surely to be the first of many new additions to the online travel guide.
“I strongly believe a travel guide is something that can motivate travellers to travel to Pakistan and I think Wikivoyage can be a very useful and powerful tool and it can play a very positive role in helping promote the tourism in the country. That’s why I decided to show a unbiased and true image of Pakistan through Wikivoyage. Saqib points to other countries that are deemed dangerous and their equally – if not more – tenuous reputations that have better travel coverage than Pakistan. “There hasn’t been an updated travel guide on Pakistan since 2008,” says Saqib about the travel publisher, Lonely Planet. “And even their website that references Pakistani destinations is now incomplete and out of date,” he laments, “they still publish about more dangerous countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and many African countries.” Therefore, in a culmination of negative press coverage, and lack of current travel information (aside from the all-too-common travel advisory), Pakistan’s image suffers mercilessly.