ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s expected visit to Pakistan next month will be a “historic” one, according to a top Pakistani government minister.
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],” Pakistan’s Minister of State for the Interior Shehryar Khan 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 centre … from any sect, from any background, every Pakistani values relations with Turkey.”
Afridi took his post last August just after Imran Khan, former cricket star, rose to the prime ministry in the wake of general elections. Earlier this year, Khan paid a two-day visit to Turkey — a longtime ally of the South Asian nuclear state.
“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 legendary president of Turkey, 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, “The CPEC is no doubt is a game-changer.”
“This particular opportunity can take relations to a different high, different 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.