ISLAMABAD   -   Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday inaugurated Pakistan Online Visa System, under which online visa facility has been provided to citizens of one hundred and seventy-five countries.

Addressing the inaugural ceremony here, he said under the scheme, business visa will be provided to citizens of ninety-six countries on their arrival in Pakistan. Similarly, visa on arrival will also be provided to tourists of fifty countries.

The Prime Minister said business visas facility under these categories will be provided within seven to ten days.

The online visa facility will include the categories of tourism, business, work and student visa, diplomat and journalist visa, family visit, cultural visits and participation in conferences and seminars.

The Prime Minister said tour operators of International Air Transport Association will be allowed to conduct group tourism in Pakistan.

The restriction of the Non-Objection Certificate has been abolished for tourists visiting cantonment areas, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The restriction of visiting three cities for journalists has also been withdrawn.

He said religious visa will be valid for forty-five days but visas for International Non-Governmental Organisations’ workers, students, and domestic aids will be subjected to clearance from Interior Ministry.

The Prime Minister further said issuing of online visa is a major step towards bringing a real change as it will open the country to the outside world.

Imran Khan said it also showed that Pakistan is a peaceful and stable country and open to the world for business and tourism.

He said the mindset regarding allowing foreigners into the country needs to be changed in order to portray a positive image of Pakistan to the world.

The Prime Minister said the beautiful region of Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan is twice the size of Switzerland and there are still many unexplored areas in the area.

He said the skiing resorts of Pakistan are unique in the world due to their topography. He said a task force on tourism will make sure that proper facilities are provided to the tourists.

The Prime Minister said religious tourism is another major area that needs to be explored. He said religious sites of Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Sufism in the country can attract a large number of visitors from across the world.

Imran Khan said ancient civilisations of the country will be introduced to the world.

Imran Khan said Peshawar was the oldest living city in human history and a historical part in the city developed with German cooperation will be opened for tourists soon. He said all the tourist sites and attractions will be properly advertised on a dedicated website.

The Prime Minister said work is also in the offing to promote beach tourism in the country by taking advantage of unexplored long coastal belt of Pakistan.

Imran Khan lauded the role of security agencies for their sacrifices to make Pakistan a secure and peaceful country. He expressed optimism that next PSL tournament will be held in Pakistan.

Regarding ties with neighbouring countries, the Prime Minister said Pakistan wants good relations will all the regional countries, including India.

Earlier, Minister of Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the launching of online visa facility is a major step towards Naya (new) Pakistan.

He said the decision made under the chairmanship of Prime Minister is a reflection that Pakistan is opening its doors to the world.

He said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government was fulfilling the wishes of people of Pakistan at economic, defence, foreign and other fronts.

Highlighting main features of the new visa policy, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi said initially citizens of five countries including UK, Turkey, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates and China will be granted online visas in the pilot project.

He said foreign nationals of Indian origin will also be allowed to avail the facility of visa on arrival for religious tourism.

The Minister of State said average visa fee has been reduced from 22 to 65 per cent. He said nationals of UAE, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain among others will be given multiple visas.