Before Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan left Islamabad at the end of his two-day visit to Pakistan, the two countries had signed 13 Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs).
The intent is clear, as is the will on both sides to boost ties but much work is needed to translate intentions into action.
The two-day visit (February 13-14) was President Erdogan’s fourth visit to Pakistan since he came to power.
At his joint press conference with Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan, he referred to his host as “my Brother Imran.” It was no doubt, meant sincerely.
Speaking at the Pakistan-Turkey Business and Investment Forum in Islamabad alongside Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Turkish president thanked Pakistan for being “wonderful hosts”.
Upon arrival at the Noor Khan Airbase in Rawalpindi, Prime Minister Imran Khan received the guest who was accompanied by his wife Emine Erdogan. After presentation of guard of honor at the airport, the Pakistani prime minister personally drove the car in which President Erdogan was traveling.
This has become Imran Khan’s signature mark to show respect to his guests.
As part of his official engagements, the Turkish president met his Pakistani counterpart, Arif Alvi who hosted a dinner in his honor later that evening.
President Erdogan also addressed a joint session of Parliament the same day where he was warmly received.
At his joint press conference with the Pakistani prime minister on Friday, President Erdogan said that the current bilateral trade of $800 million a year was not satisfactory, given the two countries’ combined population of 300 million.
“So, we should quickly increase our bilateral trade to $1 billion, and then bring it up to $5 billion. We cannot obtain these objectives only through good will, we have to take determined, clear, and strong steps towards our common objectives.”
He also said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) should be “better explained to Turkish entrepreneurs”, adding that the country is “ready to work on that”, but hinted that “Turkey is not given the same opportunities that are offered to some other countries.”
“Hopefully we’ll open the door for new businesses. We wish to raise the level of Pakistan and Turkey's business relations to the level of our political relations,” he said.
President Erdogan also touched on the dual citizenship arrangement between Turkey and Pakistan that has been talked about recently. Currently, we have a model in place for offering Turkish citizenship to investors under certain conditions, he added.
“I invite my Pakistani brethren to have confidence in the Turkish economy, we are among the world’s top 20 economies,” stressing on Turkey’s banking sector and tourism industry.
“We have companies of international renown in the fields of defence, transportation, housing, healthcare, and construction,” he stated.
Taking a swipe at the Pakistani elite’s infatuation with western healthcare services—the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is currently in Britain allegedly receiving medical treatment and before that the late Benazir Bhutto would deliver babies in the UK!—the Turkish president said: “I have heard that Pakistanis trust western healthcare more, we have to change that.”
“Turkey is far more advanced than other western countries, with the latest medical advancements and healthcare,” he said.
Referring to the Turkish serials and dramas, especially Ertogrul that has taken the world by storm, President Erdogan said: “Turkish serials that are followed by millions of people abroad are being followed by Pakistanis too, so we should also venture into filmmaking.”
At the political level, Turkey has been a staunch and consistent supporter of the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination. This point is greatly appreciated in Pakistan.
The two countries together with Malaysia have also vowed to fight Islamophobia that is the cause of great distress and suffering for Muslims, especially those residing in the West.
Turkey-Pakistan relations are deep. The Pakistani language ‘Urdu’ is a Turkish word.
In the 1960s, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey had formed an alliance called the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD). It was the brainchild of then Pakistani President Ayub Khan. For all his faults, Ayub had laid the foundations of Pakistan’s industrial and agricultural base and considered one of the models for development.
When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto came to power in 1972, after conspiring to break-up Pakistan, separating the country’s eastern wing then referred to as East Pakistan that became Bangladesh, he destroyed the country’s economy.
It has not recovered from those disastrous policies ever since although his progeny continue to plague the political landscape and are some of the biggest crooks in the country.
As Turkey-Pakistan relations get on track, it would be beneficial for both to have Islamic Iran also on board.
Between the three of them—forget about the Arabian regimes and their illegitimate rulers that have sold their souls—they pack a mighty economic and military punch.