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November 16, 2016
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Welcoming the Turkish president

Opinion

November 16, 2016

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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s two-day visit to Pakistan at the head of a high-level delegation of government ministers, businessmen and senior officials comes at a time of profound transitions both regionally and globally. The chief highlight of the visit is the president’s address to the joint session of parliament, which will further strengthen our multifaceted bilateral partnership.

The visits by leaderships of both countries from time to time demonstrate their readiness to adjust the bilateral relations in line with the realities of the 21st century.  

Both    countries       share a common bond of religion, history, culture, and spirituality. Nurtured over the years by the people of the two countries, these special bonds transcend physical distances and language barriers.

It will be more appropriate to say that we are one nation living in two states. Ours is a relationship that runs deep into the ethos, emotions and sensibility of our peoples.

Above all, it is the steadfast love and affection between our two peoples that is the true strength and defining feature of this time-tested relationship between our two countries. Friendship with the Turkish people is part of the legacy inherited from our forefathers. We cherish this legacy and are determined to preserve and pass it on to our succeeding generations.

Long before the birth of Pakistan, the Muslims of the Subcontinent strongly supported the freedom struggle of Gazi Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Turkey’s war of freedom also became a source of inspiration for Pakistan’s own freedom movement.

Another relation that connects        Pakistan        with    Turkey is that of Allama Dr Muhammad Iqbal and Maulana Rum. Iqbal always looked up to     Turkey as an upholder of change, and stability in the region and beyond. Even when the       Ottoman Empire       faced the prospect of disintegration, Iqbal saw a silver lining in its turmoil and a creation of new order.

Turkey, under the leadership of President Erdogan, has made great strides in different walks of national life over the last one decade. The emergence of the country as an economic powerhouse, a stable democracy, and a responsible regional power is a hot success story, worthy of emulation by the third world in general and the Muslim world in particular.    The slogan of ‘New Turkey’ raised by President Erdogan has inspired the Turkish nation to unlock its latent potential to earn its rightful place in the comity of nations.

It is a lesson in how the commitment and determination of the leadership can turn things around in a short span of time. Turkey’s increasing significance at international and regional levels in a world undergoing multiple transitions represents a tribute to political wisdom and the exemplary leadership of President Erdogan.

The welfare-oriented policies of the past three governments of the Justice and Development Party not only set the country on the path of economic growth and development, but also brought about a remarkable transformation in the quality of life of the Turkish people. President Erdogan’s leadership and vision has been the principal factor in making this difference.

We, in Pakistan, deeply admire the leadership of President Erdogan. The events of July 15, 2016 marking the coup attempt will be remembered as a watershed not only in the history of Turkey but also of the world, in that the people answered the call of their beloved leader and took to the streets to resist the coup attempt. The scenes of unarmed people of all ages standing in front of tanks and facing bullets fired from gunship helicopters have acquired a legendary status in contemporary political consciousness. The people of Turkey have set a worthy example of heroism, which will continue to inspire generations to come. 

President Erdogan’s leadership was critical in turning the tide against the coup plotters. Under his leadership, a more confident, self-assured and stable Turkey has emerged from the tumultuous events of July 15.

In the last week of July 2016, I visited Turkey on the special invitation of President Erdogan, which provided a wonderful opportunity to hold useful discussions with the Turkish leadership.

We, in Punjab, are immensely grateful to President Erdogan and his government for giving vital cooperation to the province in several areas.       

Turkish assistance has been critical in conceiving, designing and implementing the Dolphin Force project in Lahore with an aim to curb streets crimes. The Dolphin Force has played a key role in improving law and order in the city. We now want to implement the project in other cities of Punjab. We also greatly appreciate Turkey’s cooperation in the areas of justice and security, particularly restructuring of the Counter-Terrorism Department, establishment of Anti-Riot Police and provision of training to intelligence operators.

Turkey’s healthcare system has undergone massive transformation since 2003. It has one of the best healthcare systems in the region, thanks to the Health Transformation Programme (HTP) and other policy interventions introduced by the government. We are very eager to benefit from Turkey’s healthcare reforms and reinvent our healthcare system by modelling it on the lines the Turkish system is built on.

Based on a visit of high-level delegation of the Turkish health ministry, the Punjab government is in the process of finalising an MoU with Turkey for transformation of the health sector in Punjab.

Likewise, after the devastating floods of 2010, the government and people of the Republic of Turkey gifted a state-of-the-art hospital to the people of Pakistan. The Recep Tayyip Erdogan Hospital (RTEH), constructed in the district of Muzaffargarh in southern Punjab, started its operations in July 2014 with a capacity of 60 beds. The hospital was expanded to 100 beds within a year of its inception.

Now as a symbol of the deep love and affection existing between our two countries, the government of Punjab has decided to expand the Recep Tayyip Erdogan Hospital to a capacity of a 550-bed teaching hospital including a medical college for 500 students, nursing school for 400 students, paramedics school for 200 students, residential facilities for staff, and other allied amenities. The government of Punjab has already allotted 113 acres of land adjacent to the RTEH for this purpose.

The government of Pakistan, under the leadership of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, has steered the country on a path of peace, stability and prosperity. With the help of our brave armed forces, we have broken the back of extremists, and now reached the threshold of an era of prosperity in the country. The PML-N government has fostered an economic environment that is open, transparent, and business and investment friendly. The successes achieved by the present government on various fronts are being acknowledged worldwide.

With the rapid implementation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which envisages linking western China with the Gwadar Port in Pakistan, and the related investment package of $51 billion in infrastructure and energy, Pakistan’s economy has reached the take-off stage.

The leaderships of the two countries are mindful of the imperative of rendering our vast reservoirs of goodwill into a robust economic partnership. President’s Erdogan’s visit will certainly be a giant step in this direction.

On our part, Pakistan will always remain a sincere, resolute and unwavering partner, friend and brother to Turkey.

 

The writer is the chief minister of Punjab.

Facebook.com/shehbazsharif

Twitter: @CMShehbaz

 

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