By Naveel Ahmed
ISLAMABAD (APP):As a part of its plans to promote religious tourism in Pakistan, the government of province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has set up a Buddhist trail to attract the followers of Buddhism and monks from across the world.
“A Buddhist trail has been developed in the province to facilitate the monks and foreign tourists for visiting some 20 sites, which have thousands of Buddhist relics,” a senior official from Directorate of Archaeology and Museums Khyber Pakhtunkhwa told APP.
The trail starts from Khanpur and culminates at Swat, covering several Buddhist sites, including Julian , Bhamala,
Jinnah Wali Dheri, Hund Museum, Rani Ghat, Peshawar Museum, Gor Khatri, Takht  Bahi and several others.
According to the official, the provincial government was spending Rs1 billion to develop the archaeological sites in KP, which would eventually help promote religious tourism and generate revenue for the province.
“This includes Rs500 million given by the World Bank and the same amount earmarked by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in its budget,” he added.
The official believes that the government’s efforts for promotion of religious tourism had started yielding positive results as the province was receiving a huge influx of pilgrims.
Gandhara Civilization is the major source of attraction for the tourists and the followers of Buddhism.
The provincial government had officially launched a programme last month under which the trips of foreign
delegations belonging to Buddhism and Sikhism were being arranged.
“The provincial government is expecting two high-level delegations of the monks from Thailand and South Korea in October and November respectively,” he official added.
The first group from Thailand, he said, was likely to arrive by end of the current month while the Pakistani Embassy in Seoul had finalized arrangements for the second delegation of 80 Buddhist monks, led by Ven Wonhaeng, president of the largest Korean Buddhist order.
He said the Department of Archaeology along with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport would facilitate the delegations to visit the newly developed Buddhist trail.
Last month, he said, a group of Buddhist pilgrims and researchers had visited various Buddhist sites, including Butkara-I, Saidu Sharif Stupa, Jahanabad Buddha in Manglawar, Swat Museum and other places in Barikot tehsil.