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Pakistan Welcomes Hindu Pilgrims In Effort To Jump-Start Religious Tourism

A police officer stands guard at a Hindu temple after a mob attack in a remote village in the Karak district in December 2020.

Dozens of Hindu pilgrims from India have traveled to neighboring Pakistan this month in a development that one lawmaker called “a big change” for Pakistan.

“This is the first time in Pakistan’s 74-year history that religious tourism -- faith tourism -- is beginning,” lawmaker Ramesh Kumar Vankwani of the ruling Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI) party told Radio Mashaal. “I think this is a big change.”

Vankwani, who represents the Hindu minority and is also head of the Pakistan Hindu Council, said 159 Hindu pilgrims had entered Pakistan from India on January 1. The four-day visit was part of a government-backed religious tourism initiative.

They were scheduled to got to Karak in northwestern Pakistan, where a Hindu shrine was attack by a mob in December 2020.

In March 2021, Muslim religious and tribal leaders apologized for the incident and condemned the attack.

Pakistan is a Muslim-majority country that has been listed as a “country of particular concern” by the United States since 2019 for “systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom.”

Islamabad has rejected that designation as “arbitrary.”

Hindus account for just over 2 percent of Pakistan’s population of some 208 million people.