ISLAMABAD: Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed a joint sitting of Parliament on Tuesday on the second and last day of what is being termed as a historic visit to Pakistan.
"Pakistan is the first foreign country that I visit this year and my first visit to your country, but Pakistan is not at all unfamiliar to me," said President Xi Jinping as he addressed the joint session, specially called in honour of the visiting dignitary.
The Chinese president extended warm greetings to the people of Pakistan on behalf of the 1.3 billion people of China, and said that the two neighbouring countries had stood together in each other’s hours of need.
He said that it was an honour for him to address the Pakistani Parliament. My delegation and I have been greatly influenced by and are thankful for the hospitality of our Pakistani guests, he said.
“China considers Pakistan as its ‘Iron Brother’. I remember the time when China was completely isolated in the world,” he said, adding that Pakistan was the country that had stood by China in testing times.
The Chinese president said that China considered Pakistan as its trusted friend and firmly supported its integrity and sovereignty.
He said that Pakistan opened its airspace for China when it needed it the most, and was the first country to initiate diplomatic relations with China.
Speaking about the Taliban attack at the Army Public School in Peshawar, Jinping said: “China had invited some of the students and their families to spend some time in China so that the trauma they had suffered could be healed with the care of the Chinese people.”
Speaking about the rescue of stranded Pakistani and Chinese citizens in Yemen, he said: “In the most recent evacuation mission in Yemen, the Chinese Navy evacuated 176 Pakistanis from the port of Aden. And Pakistani navy evacuated eight Chinese students from Mukalla airport.”
“The Pakistani commander of the ship gave the order that we will not leave until all the Chinese students are on board. This again shows that Pakistan China friendship is indeed deeper than the ocean,” he said.
He hailed Pakistan's role as a frontline state against terrorism and said that the sacrifices Pakistan has rendered in this battle cannot be forgotten.
The Chinese president vowed that Pakistan and China would fight the challenges of terrorism together.
Jinping said that the Pakistani economy has the capability to transform into an ‘Asian Tiger’, and said that the Economic Corridor project will benefit not only the region but every citizen of Pakistan.
Jinping said that the $45 billion economic corridor offered Pakistan a "historic development opportunity".
"Today Pakistan has a historic development opportunity. Prime Minister Sharif has crafted the vision of the Asian tiger dream. It outlines a great blueprint for Pakistan," he told Pakistani lawmakers.
He said that in the next five years China would provide several training opportunities for Pakistanis based in China and will also send 1,000 Chinese teachers to Pakistan.
The special session, called in honour of the Chinese president, started at 9:46AM with the national anthems of both nations, followed by recitation of verses of the Holy Quran.
"Your visit to this house is not a formal state visit. It is a brother's homecoming, and the reunion of one’s family. We all join hands to welcome you," said NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq before he invited President Xi Jinping to address the joint sitting.
President Xi Jinping’s address was followed by speeches from Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The joint session was attended by chief ministers, governors, service chiefs, diplomats and other important personalities. The First Lady of China, the First Lady of Pakistan and Lady-in-Waiting Maryam Nawaz also attended the ceremony.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Chinese President inaugurated a solar power system for the Parliament building and held a group meeting with Speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq and Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani.
Following his address to Parliament, Jinping arrived at the President House in Islamabad where President Mamnoon Hussain hosted a luncheon in honour of the Chinese president and his delegation.
The Chinese president was also honoured with Pakistan’s highest civilian award, the Nishan-e-Pakistan, at a special ceremony.
The Chinese president and his accompanying delegation concluded their two-day visit and departed via an Air China aircraft from the Noor Khan airbase around 3:00PM.
The Chinese president’s plane was escorted by eight JF-17 Thunder jets of the Pakistan Air Force up to the end of Pakistani airspace.
President Jinping’s address to Parliament came after he inaugurated a $45 billion investment plan on Monday that aims to create direct links between China and the Arabian Sea and boost the sluggish Pakistani economy.
Islamabad and Beijing hope the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will transform Pakistan into a regional economic hub and bring growth to the restive western Chinese region of Xinjiang.
The corridor scheme is part of Beijing´s "Belt and Road" plan to expand its trade and transport footprint across Central and South Asia, while countering US and Indian influence.
The projected investments, $28 billion of which were signed during the course of Xi´s visit, dwarf a US assistance package to Pakistan of $5 billion that began in 2010 but has made less impact than hoped.
They foresee the creation of road, rail and pipeline links that will connect China to the Arabian Sea, cutting several thousand kilometres off the route that transports oil from the Middle East.
The upgrade will stretch 3,000 kilometres from China´s western city of Kashgar to the port of Gwadar, control of which was transferred to a Chinese public company in 2013.
Ahsan Iqbal, the minister overseeing the projects, said $11 billion has been set aside for infrastructure work, while the remaining $35 billion will go on energy projects. Much of the investment will be in the form of discounted loans.