ISTANBUL, Feb 22 (AA/APP):Pakistani Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi has said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s expected visit to Pakistan next month will be a “historic” one.
Erdogan’s “visit means a lot for every Pakistani, and every Pakistani is desperately waiting for that visit of President Erdogan and it will be a historic one,” Afridi told Anadolu Agency.
Afridi’s remarks came on the sidelines of the 6th Ministerial Conference of Budapest Process, an interregional forum on migration, held this week in Istanbul.
According to recent reports, Erdogan is expected to visit Pakistan in March and announce a number of investment plans.“Turkey lives right here,” Afridi said, putting his right hand on his heart, “in the heart and the soul of every Pakistani, from right, left, or center … from any sect, from any background, every Pakistani values relations with Turkey.”
“Turkey has always stood like an elder brother for Pakistan and for this new government, which is taking to a new level where it will become an example for other countries,” Afridi said.
“Every Pakistani is now waiting for the visit of the Turkish president, an inspirational leader,” he said.
Describing meeting with the Turkish president as “my dream” Afridi said, “I found him a genuine soul – someone who has taken Turkey to a level where Turkey is now competing at the highest level. So both countries have a bright future.”
On boosting bilateral trade ties, Afridi said, “We are doing our homework along with our Turkish brothers and we will definitely take it to a level where it will obviously become an example for both countries and for coming generations.”
The current volume between the two countries is $700 million, but according to Turkish ambassador to Islamabad Mustafa Ihsan, it could climb as high as $10 billion.
When asked about Turkey’s interest in joining the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, Afridi said CPEC is no doubt a game-changer.
“This particular opportunity can take relations to a high level. We, all the key stakeholders, can prosper from that and it will provide an opportunity to do what is needful,” he added.
The CPEC, signed in 2014, seeks to connect China’s strategically important northwestern Xinxiang province to the port of Gwadar through a network of roads, railways, and pipelines to transport cargo, oil, and gas.
“We have recently opened our doors, and we are emphasizing one point that trade needs to be enhanced at all levels,” he said, adding that new procedures are set to ease travel restrictions by providing visas on arrival or electronic visas.
“So our doors are open, we have got enormous potential and let me assure you the future belongs to Pakistan,” he added.
On the Budapest Process conference, the Pakistani official said: “This particular initiative will go a long way for the sole reason that all stakeholders participated.”
“Such interactions and events will definitely do what is needful,” he said. “Migration, whether for developing countries or developed countries, this is an issue that needs to be addressed under the UN charter.”
The Budapest Process, established in 1993, is a forum of over 50 governments and numerous international organizations, aiming at developing comprehensive and sustainable systems for orderly migration.
As Afridi was in the Istanbul metropolis to attend the conference, he approvingly cited Turkish President Erdogan describing the city as a place where “cultures, continents, and hearts meet.”
“And the last message for Turkey is what Turkey has witnessed in the past, your values, your norms, your culture, your heritage speaks in high volumes, and every Pakistani believes in your ability, and we pray that prosperity may become the order of the day for Turkey and Pakistan,” he added. “Long live Pakistan and Turkey,” he said.
Under the leadership of new Prime Minister Khan, Afridi said his country puts “emphasis on our neighbors.
“Pakistan as a nation has suffered enormously,” he said. “We are fighting the biggest war on land, we have made enormous sacrifices.”
Afridi said “every Pakistani” condemned last week’s terror attack in the disputed Kashmir region, despite India’s allegations against Pakistan. On February 14, in Indian-administered Kashmir, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a bus carrying Indian paramilitary police, killing at least 44 of them.
“We have suggested to Indians that we are willing to cooperate and investigating it and when it comes to dialogue anything related to terrorism, we are willing to discuss everything,” he added.
“We have opened our doors for our Indians brothers and sisters, we are neighbors and we are willing to cooperate,” he said.
On relations between Pakistan and Iran, especially Tehran’s accusation of Pakistani involvement in last week’s attack in southeastern Iran that killed 27 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, Afridi urged the need for “dialogue”.
“We are providing every single facility through which we can achieve peace, and the narrative of this president’s government is to promote peace at all levels,” he added.
Afridi also hailed this week’s “unprecedented” visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to Pakistan as part of his Asia tour, including India and China.
During the two-day visit, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia inked $20 billion worth of trade and investment deals. This investment deal “shows that Pakistan is not only here to survive, Pakistan is here to compete,” Afridi said.
On Pakistan’s declaration recent declaration of FETO — the group behind the defeated 2016 coup in Turkey — as a terrorist group, Afridi said, “Those who have violated a law or have become a scare in the face of humanity, they need to be given a lesson.”
In December, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered the government to declare the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) a terror group and to ban its affiliated schools in the country.
The court also ordered the transfer of FETO’s “movable and immovable assets”, schools, colleges, education centers, and other similar entities to Turkey’s Maarif Foundation, an education association set up by Turkey to take the reins at former FETO schools.
On July 15, 2016, a FETO coup attempt in Turkey left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
FETO led by US-based Fetullah Gulen held a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.