Hamid Asghar Khan
Pakistan shares a number of historic, socio-cultural and geographic commonalities with the brotherly Kingdom of Morocco. The leadership and people share great mutual respect and affection,however a number ofcooperation, trade and investment opportunities present themselves and need to be availed to provide more substance to the relationship.
The Covid-19 Pandemic has disrupted planned official visits by the Honorable Speaker of the Moroccan Assembly to Pakistan and also that of the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee who were to lead parliamentary delegations. A visit to Rabat by our Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi similarly has been delayed due to the outbreak.
Morocco, relying on its strong and effective, local and regional government system,was able to admirably enforce its 3 month lockdown. They have been able to do a tremendous job of curtailing the spread of the disease. With just over 12,000 cases-11,000 of them recovered-the Kingdom is now moving towards the muchawaited resumption of business activities and international connectivity.
A new British affiliated school has requested the Embassy to help identify dynamic and qualified teachers from Pakistan for its new campus opening in Rabat this August. Similarly, the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has communicated its desire to recruit specialists in various fields for its Headquarters here in Rabat. The national press agency is desirous of hiring a dynamic journalist in Pakistan, to represent them, and to provide a regular news feed from Pakistan.
Morocco, situated on the Mediterranean as well as Atlantic, with varied landscapes from pristine beaches to sandy deserts and the green Atlas Mountains is uniquely positioned,andis a tourists paradise. A moderate, inclusive, tolerant and welcoming culture enables the Kingdom to regularly host over one million tourists per month. Our Mission has hosted a tour operator delegation from Pakistan, and arranged meetings here to organize family package tours.
Similarly, the State of the Art Tanger-Med Port-a sprawling complex including vibrant industrial and economic zones is an export dynamo.The warehousing, passenger and goods terminals in the $ 12 billion dollar facility spread over 2500 acrescontributes to employment, as well as national economic connectivity and growth.Morocco is truly a gateway to Africa. We have proposed that the operators of our Gwadar Port come and examine the management model adopted here at what has become one of the world’s fastest growing ports.
Morocco is widely viewed as a stable, well governed reliable friend and ally by countries near and far. Under the vision and guidance of His Majesty Mohammad VI, the country has made great strides in the fields of alternate energy, water conservation, education, equitable development, judicial reforms, devolution of powers, effective local governance and in boosting the private sector. The security and intelligence services do an admirable job of proactively maintaining peace and safety. Reforms in almost every field are geared to address the needs of the population.
The Kingdom is among the top two destinations for foreign investment on the vibrant African continent, and they play a leading role at the OIC-being the birthplace of the world’s second largest international organization. Morocco also participates proactively in Arab League and African Union affairs, and is the only country to have free trade agreements with both the USA as well as the EU. Textile investors from Pakistan, setting up units here would benefit from the abundance of energy, skilled labor, easy connectivity and duty exemptions under the FTA’s.
2020 happily witnessed the second round of formal bilateral political consultations between the two countries, and the Moroccan delegation had constructive meetings at the Foreign Office, Parliament and with other important stakeholders while in Islamabad. MOU’s for cooperation between APP and Maghreb Arab Press as well as between The Mayors of Islamabad and Rabat are under consideration. Mission organized visits to Casablanca, Tangiers, Meknes and Rabat for a visiting 22 member FPCCI delegation who had excellent meetings with sectoral counterparts.
We here at the Mission were delighted to assist with the official visit of COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who undertook a three day visit, among other engagements delivering a lecture at the Military College, and holding discussions with the Defence Minister as well as the Moroccan Army Chief. Earlier, the Mission was happy to assist with another official visit by the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee of Pakistan.
The mega developments planned for the southern provinces as per the vision of His Majesty present exciting opportunities for Pakistani infrastructure and development companies to participate in major road, railway, port, housing as well as health and educational projects. Similarly, the hospitality sector offers ample opportunities and at least one Pakistani is planning to open a traditional hotel to cater for the large tourist market in the months ahead. We must collectively explore the employment and business opportunities that present themselves in this region.
The Islamic Center for Development of Trade at Casablanca has offered to help host an Islamic countries trade show in Pakistan, and it is anticipated that delegates from over 35 countries will participate in the event.The Embassy has proposed that the best export goods of Pakistan be displayed on this occasion to help promote our goods. We feel our sports, pharmaceutical and textile products among others can find a ready market here.
The Embassy is also striving to bridge the information and awareness gap that exists on both sides. Opening of an Information Section at the Mission shall greatly help boost trade, generate people to people ties and allow for more robust public diplomacy that we have planned in the shape of a book exhibition, qawwali show, textile exhibition and paintings display in the months ahead.
In 1956 a newly independent Pakistan had the vision, resolve and conviction to stand by our Moroccan brothers as they struggled for their freedom. With commonalities of culture and religion, and a shared world view of peaceful development, it is time to translate our traditionally warm, cordial ties into concrete trade, commercial and investment linkages.
There is much we can learn from each other, and we at the Mission remain determined to help forge stronger and deeper ties, fostering cooperation in every sector possible.
Hamid Asghar Khan is Pakistan’s Ambassador in Morocco