Pakistan is not only a quickly developing economy and nuclear power but also one of the most interesting countries in terms of tourism, says Muhammad Khalid Jamali, the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Pakistan represents nuclear energy and the second most populous Muslim country in the world. If the numbers of the UN Security Council keep growing, shouldn’t a country such as that be a permanent member?
Pakistan is a country with nuclear weapons and a strategic position in between the East, West, and Southeast Asia regions. It is also the only Muslim country to have nuclear weapons. It is important to point out that we hold our nuclear arsenal for the country’s safety and for peaceful purposes. Pakistan is in favor of a complex reform of the Security Council in order to transform it into a more democratic and representative body that will reflect the UN's composition. We are an active member of the United for Consensus (UfC) group, and we are aware that a reform of the Safety council is a difficult and delicate matter because of the need to respect the member states' key interests. We are in favor of a complex solution that would reflect the interests of all member states. We are convinced that it is not in the interest of current UN member states to have another permanent member on the Security council. To ensure further progress, we are willing to talk about “long-term memberships” that would allow for a fair alternation and would give an opportunity to a larger number of countries who want to take part in the Council's work. We are convinced that in order to ensure the reform’s credibility, a consensual approach needs to be maintained. That is why Pakistan refuses both the notion of voting on the reform process and the method of gradual changes.
The European Union is Pakistan's biggest trade partner. Where in Europe can we come across its products? I remember my son loving footballs made in Pakistan, for instance.
Yes, Pakistan is actually one of the biggest hand-made football manufacturers and was given the honor of manufacturing the Brazuca – the official ball of the 2014 World Cup. As an agricultural country, it exports high-quality Basmati rice to the whole world. You can find it in stores all over Europe, even in the Czech Republic, and Pakistan has received the EU Protected Designation of Origin for it. The slightly pink salt you can see being sold in many variations all across the Union comes from Khewra, in Pakistan, where you will find the second biggest salt mine in the world. You can buy it in the form of food seasoning as well as a regenerative salt lamp. Next time you see a salt lamp or buy a pink-coloured salt vase, look for the Made in Pakistan stamp, you will be sure to find it. Pakistan also boasts an extensive textile industry, exporting its high-quality textile goods into the whole world. We supply companies such as s'Oliver, Levi's, Adidas, H&M, Puma, and many other renowned worldwide brands.
Conversely, what are the options of Czech companies and exporters in Pakistan?
With its 220 million people, Pakistan is the fifth largest country in the world. The areas that could be of interest to Czech companies are construction, food processing, and the automotive industry. The yearly demand for housing counts seven hundred thousand apartments, and it is only being met by half. The Pakistani government plans to build five million apartments by 2023. This area is their priority, especially when it comes to affordable housing. Other opportunities for investment present themselves in food processing, whether it be for the local market or for export. As a big mango and citrus producer, Pakistan has a lot of potential for processing fruit products, including syrups and juices. Besides housing and food processing, there exists potential for the development of small-scale businesses in the automotive industry. The manufacture and assembly of compact cars, electric bicycles, and agricultural machinery for small farms is a field with a bright future and great potential returns.
Pakistan is known throughout the world for the high-quality work of its millions of people. Which fields do they work in the most?
Pakistan's workforce has a large amount of blue- and white-collar workers. Pakistani doctors are well-respected active members of medical and scientific associations all over the world, especially in the US, Great Britain, Australia, Germany, Austria, Norway, and the Middle East. Our researchers are a part of many projects in the world-renowned Swiss CERN institute. You will find Ph.D. students and postdoctoral researchers even in Czech universities, in fields such as textile, agricultural, mechanical engineering, and medical studies. We have over 300 thousand English-speaking IT specialists and more than 20 thousand IT specialists enter the market each year. It is similar in hotels, restaurants, and the entire hospitality field in general. Our excellent hotel managers, chefs, and serving staff are all over the world. Approving work permits for Pakistani doctors and nurses could help alleviate Czech healthcare’s issues with staff numbers. The IT and services sectors could similarly benefit from the number of English-speaking workers available in Pakistan.
Regarding investments, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) offers itself for discussion. How does Pakistan benefit from this project? Shouldn’t the European Union also work on increasing its investing activities in your country?
The CPEC is a pivotal project with a value of 62 billion dollars, it is a part of the BRI initiative, known in Czechia as the New Silk Road. It is set to connect over sixty countries with three billion people across China, Southern Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. This project aims to boost economic growth and contact between people living along the course of the ancient Silk Road. Power sources that provide 5320 mW of energy were built within our local network as the first phase of this project. Furthermore, 1100 kilometers of international highway infrastructure were constructed, connecting the Chinese border with the Arab sea where Gwadar, our biggest deepwater port, is located. Within the scope of the second phase, special economic zones were created along the Corridor to help support industrial, agricultural, and technological development. These zones are made more attractive by subsidies, such as tax cuts, no taxes on capital equipment and goods, and there is a period of so-called “Tax holidays” that will be going on for ten years. Full repatriation of gains for foreign investors is another attractive option. These conditions provide enough reasons for EU countries to start investing in Pakistan and help support the development of our country. Czech companies have the option of investing in the manufacture of agricultural machinery and compact cars, food processing, software development as well as the entire IT sector, but also the construction industry and similar fields.
What would you recommend that Czech tourists see in Pakistan?
The Forbes magazine listed Pakistan as one of the ten most attractive tourist destinations of last year, and Britain’s Daily Telegraph called it the ideal destination for adventurous travellers. Pakistan is a geographically and culturally diverse country. It has the world’s three biggest mountain ranges to the north as well as the Indus river valley, which was the home of ancient civilizations that originated more than 4000 b.c. and is also the place where the Sikh and Buddhist faiths were born. Our tourist trade can benefit from natural wonders as well as cultural attractions. Czech tourists like hiking and being in nature. Pakistan is the ideal place for mountain tourism. It has the five highest peaks in the world, including the K-2. And also the highest altitude mountain plateau, Deosai, which is home to the Asian brown bear as well as a plethora of other animal and plant life. The highest situated polo playing field, Shandur, in the Chitral valley (Hindu Kush mountain range) hosted many celebrities at its yearly summer festival, including Princess Diana, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, or the American actor Al Pacino. The Chitral valley is also home to the Kalasha people, believed to be the descendants of Alexander the Great’s armies. The northern areas of Pakistan are best accessed through Islamabad–by air or the Karakorum highway that leads along Marco Polo’s famous Silk Road all the way to the Chinese border. Islamabad is directly connected by air to the cities of Gilgit, Skardu, Chitral, and Saidu Sharif. The best time to come to the north is between March and July. By the way, the former mayor of Prague, Pavel Bém, is a frequent visitor. He was granted the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz award for promoting Pakistani mountain climbing.
Our country is also home to the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation. There are three key archeological sites, Harappa in central Punjab, Mohenjo-daro in Larkana, and Mehrgarh in Balochistan. All three originate from the period of 4000 b.c. They are known for their buildings as well as urban planning. The statues of the Dancing Girl and the Priest-king are some of the most famous discoveries belonging to these civilizations. You will find another archaeological site a forty-minute drive north of Islamabad–Gandhara, where you can see the seat of Buddhist learning during Ashoka’s rule. Buddhist sights can also be found in Pashtuns or Northern Punjab, all easily accessible from Islamabad.
For those who seek a blend of culture and excellent food, the city of Lahore is the place to go. It is Pakistan’s cultural capital. It has marvellous relics of the Mughal empire, including the Lahore Fort and the Badshahi mosque. You can indulge in luxury foods on the Fort Road Food Street along the fort’s ramparts and enjoy beautiful city views. The Lahore museum boasts an impressive collection of archaeological discoveries from Gandhara. And those interested in fashion must not miss Lahore’s M.M. Alam street, where you can find a number of fashionable stores offering haute couture designs. The best time to visit the archeological sights, as well as Lahore, is during spring and autumn.
And now, what was your favorite place in Czechia?
Prague is one of the most stunning capital cities in Europe. It has come through World War II unscathed. The st. Vitus cathedral is a breathtaking example of gothic architecture. There are many other sights, including the Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, Astronomical Clock, Wenceslas Square, or Vyšehrad. Sadly we were not able to see other interesting places in Czechia due to covid restrictions, such as Český Krumlov, Kutná Hora, Litomyšl, Olomouc, and others.
The author is an editor of the Deník paper
Life in Prague
Muhammad Khalid Jamali, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, worked at embassies in New Delhi, Ankara, and Brussels before coming to Prague. His almost brand new residence in Nebušice is furnished in a modern and tasteful fashion, and you can find handcrafted artifacts from Pakistan in many places there. “All my daughter needs to do to get to the local English school is cross the road, which is perfect,” says Ambassador Jamali who has an extensive understanding of Czech as well as European and worldwide politics. “It is a shame that there is no place here in Prague for diplomats and journalists to meet,” he mentions. He adds that he is looking forward to all the pandemic safety measures being over so he can travel all over the country with his family.
The Fairy Meadows plains, located close to a camp at the foot of the Nanga Parbat, Pakistan's second tallest mountain.