The provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa appears to have completely lost its marbles if its recent decision to triple its budgetary allocation for tourism is anything to judge by. The surprising amount of Rs1, 225 million set aside for what is surely, given the prevailing conditions, a lost cause, could have, on the whole, been far better utilised elsewhere in what has become a perpetually suffering province where a simple task such as going out to purchase daily rations is to put ones life on the line, given the militants increasing penchant for blowing up just about anyone and anything at all. True to say that archaeological sites throughout this huge, often rugged area, have been criminally neglected in the past, with the result that a sizeable percentage of them have all but disappeared or are in such a dangerously dilapidated condition that their disappearance is imminent and yes, they must be preserved, but what on earth are these silly people thinking of in proposing the holding of tourism festivals at a time when large gatherings of people, involved in the tourism industry or not, are an open invitation for suicide bombers to make the kind of impact they dream of. The construction of log cabins at tourist sites is another lunacy: Neither earthquake affected people, nor those rendered homeless from last years catastrophic flooding have yet been fully re-housed in that province and log cabins, hopefully not made with logs purchased from the timber mafia, would suit them down to the ground, especially if they are fully equipped with the niceties of existence that well heeled tourists have come to expect. Then there are caravans or mobile homes also to be set up in a variety of tourist destinations, which, aside from encouraging already stricken hoteliers to scream blue murder, are grossly expensive to purchase, presumably they also have to be imported, they devalue rapidly and, with the kind of wear and tear they would undoubtedly get, would be ready for the scrap heap in no time at all. Caravans are extremely insecure places in which to place anything of value, human life being top of the list in this particular instance, are notoriously hot in summer and bitterly cold for the rest of the year, interior heating results in instant condensation closely followed by growths of smelly black mould. And, of course, there are associated personal hygiene requirements to be catered for. Even homeless people would be liable to avoid the uncomfortable confines of caravanning in our climate Programmes aimed at safeguarding local languages are also on the agenda although what this has to do with encouraging actual tourism is anyones guess. Weekly art and craft fairs throughout the province, events at which cultural, read dancing and singing, programmes would, no doubt, be performed is, sadly, nothing more than dangling live bait for militants to snap up and, with the mindset they regularly exhibit, they are certainly not going to ignore invitations proffered on the proverbial gold plate. Yes.it is a deplorable state of affairs when investment in tourism must be frowned on, but the provincial government concerned should, in all seriousness, have its collective head examined and remove its rose tinted blinkers. Even if tourists could be convinced to visit the area, they need more than log cabins and caravans: They need to know, without doubt, that they and their families are safe from harm. That roads, well surfaced and properly maintained ones, will be open 24/7, that they can move around freely without having to obtain a variety of permissions first and definitely without running the risk of encountering mass movements of indigenous people fleeing their homes, as the army and militants fight to the death. They also need to be able to wear their holiday gear - this especially relates to foreign tourists of both genders, who expect to be able to wander around decked out in shorts and sleeveless t-shirts. Such people, and if these not the more culturally aware back-packers, are the ones representing profit with a capital 'P, they also expect a choice of top quality, one hundred percent hygienic restaurants in which to while away their evening hours, if nothing more exciting is on the cards. Pakistan, especially Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is far from being anyones perfect holiday destination right now; even indigenous tourists currently prefer to take a relaxing break outside our borders, if they possibly can; so what on earth is going on with the provincial government? The Rs1,225 million earmarked for tourism is, aside from the little wearing an archaeological tag, a complete and utter waste of funding that could be far better utilised in the social welfare and womens development sectors, which have been allocated a miserly Rs440 million. In fact, why not switch the tags around by allocating Rs440 million for archaeological purposes and Rs1,225 for social welfare and womens development? Even better, why not say that this is exactly what the budget was supposed to be in the first place, that the figures were inadvertently switched around somewhere along the line and, most regrettably, the mistake was not noticed until after public announcements had been made? At least if they did this someone, tourists cant, might vote them back into office when the next elections come around. n The writer is a Murree-based freelance columnist.