A wildlife zoo, an adventure club, paragliding, restaurants and waterfalls – it's all part of a $30 million project the Pakistani government is undertaking to improve the image of Abbottabad after Osama bin Laden was killed in the town in 2011.
A brand-new amusement park in the small town will reportedly be finished in eight years. Once fully complete, the 50-acre riverside entertainment park will include restaurants, a heritage center, artificial waterfalls, a wildlife zoo and running tracks.
The Pakistani government has announced a public-private partnership project in a bid to revive tourism and sports activities in Abbottabad, which lies about 120 kilometers from the Islamabad airport.
Though not much evidence remains of the assassination raid, and bin Laden’s compound is a pile of rubble, the once-popular landmark still does not attract as many people as it did before the US operation.
Pakistani officials have denied the Osama bin Laden raid has anything to do with the project, which they claim is solely intended to improve the town’s image after the killing of the world’s most-wanted terrorist.
"We are working to promote tourism and amusement facilities in the whole province and this project is one of those facilities," Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sports and Tourism Minister Syed Aqil Shah was quoted as saying by AFP.
On Sunday, the first phase of the five-stage project began on three major tourism projects in Hazara, including water sports in Khanpur-Haripur, eco-tourism in Naran-Kaghan, and the amusement park project at Harno in Abbottabad, Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported.
Twenty percent of the income earned through each project will be spent on the development of the respective area, and residents will be given priority for jobs, Dawn said.
It has been almost two years since Abbottabad, a quiet town of 500,000, awoke to the news that Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been killed by US Navy SEALS in his compound on May 2, 2011.
While instability has wracked most of Pakistan in recent decades, Abbottabad has remained free of violence and suicide bombings. A favored summer destination for rest and relaxation, wealthy Pakistanis often visited the area for weekend retreats.
The incident soured relations between the US and Pakistan, whose leaders said that America had left them in the dark about the raid.