Islamabad committed to Saarc, says Pak envoy

Pakistan High Commissioner to Bangladesh Imran Ahmed Siddiqui has said his country wants to boost ties with Bangladesh by exploring untapped potential and reviving all the old connections, noting that Pakistan can benefit from Bangladesh's development.

"I'm fully confident to say that our leadership is fully committed. I got instructions from our leadership," he told Dhaka Courier in an interview recently. Indeed, one of the overt features of the current administration led by Imran Khan over in Pakistan is its keenness to pinpoint the development successes of Bangladesh as worth emulating.

The High Commissioner laid emphasis on frequent high-level visits between the two countries and referred to an invitation extended by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

"There're more commonalities than differences. All the areas are unexplored. So, there's a huge potential," High Commissioner Siddiqui said, mentioning that political determination is very, very important on both sides.

He said Pakistan Prime Minister Imran khan has a special place for Bangladesh and he knows a number of people in Bangladesh. "We can achieve a number of milestones under the guidance of Prime Minister Imran khan. We don't have any problem in creating goodwill," said the High Commissioner.

Bangladesh has recently reiterated the importance of resolving outstanding bilateral issues with Pakistan, including an official apology from Pakistan for the genocide it committed during Bangladesh's Liberation War in 1971.

Bangladesh has also sought completion of the repatriation of stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh and settling the issue of the division of assets. It also made it clear that it cannot forget the atrocities committed by Pakistan in 1971 and the pain will remain there forever.

Responding to a question, the High Commissioner said he is very much focused on establishing, and first of all revving all those old connections such as Foreign-Secretary-level talks as quickly as possible. The Joint Economic Commission talks have been stalled for long and there are many projects they can discuss if it is revived, he added.

The High Commissioner laid emphasis on exchange of business delegations, direct flights and shipping lines with Karachi. "There's a lot we can do together."

"Our economies have radically transformed. We're happy about the achievements of Bangladesh. We consider it as our own as there's huge potential to benefit from this growth," said High Commissioner Siddiqui.

Pakistan's bid to host the 19th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit has failed yet again as it failed to achieve consensus for it in the south Asian region. "We're committed to SAARC but all the countries have come on the stage with a positive attitude," said the Pakistan High Commissioner.

He said prosperity and security cannot be exclusive and this is the lesson of the history and lesson of economic development and prosperity. "It has to be inclusive and participatory."

The High Commissioner claimed that the "strategy of isolating one country" never works as it has to be inclusive and comprehensive. "A lot depends on the attitude of member states."

Talking about trust deficit and lack of confidence, High Commissioner Siddiqui said the most important thing is sincerity. "There're issues in the region. We need to sit and deal with the problems. Those issues have to be accepted and addressed," he said.

High Commissioner Siddiqui said things are changing in the region and it is important that they sit across and discuss to build on the goodwill that already exists.

Responding to a question on the Rohingya issue, the High Commissioner said their role was very prominent and it was appreciated by the Bangladesh Representative at the United Nations. "The issue should be resolved."

He said Pakistan is fully in favour of addressing the issue on the basis of justice and laid emphasis on the dignified return of Rohingyas to their place of origin as soon as possible. "Within the OIC, we're working in the UN and OIC."

High Commissioner Siddiqui said they support trilateral mechanisms among Bangladesh, Myanmar and China and hoped to see some good outcomes through the mechanism.

Responding to a question Covid-19 vaccine, he said Pakistan has been working with China and they are also getting vaccines from multiple sources. "It has been a very successful partnership with China."

On cricket, the Pakistan High Commissioner said the Covid-19 situation made things difficult and hoped to get back to normalcy soon. "We used cricket as an important tool to bring the two nations together."

He said currently the South African cricket team is visiting Pakistan.

The High Commissioner sees potential in the tourism sector saying they can work together on that front.

"There is nostalgia, goodwill, connections and online music and dramas. Singer Runa Laila is still very popular in Pakistan," he said adding that the gap, if any, needs to be removed.

The Pakistan High Commissioner invited Bangladeshi businessmen to diversify their businesses and invest in Pakistan, too. "We'll be very happy to connect them."

The envoy said he is working on an album on Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman putting together his photos taken during Bangabandhu's visit to Pakistan in 1974.

"I'm trying to collect all of them to make an album out of it. That would also be a part of the historical archive of our two countries," he said.

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