Pakistan and Malaysia share so many similarities that one wonders why it has taken so long to come close to putting them to mutual advantage. Both countries want to build a modern democratic progressive based on the popular will and Islamic principles of justice and equity. Corruption is an evil that both want to eliminate from their midst’ Abpvea ll, both Malaysia and Pakistan eye to eye on all issues of regional and international importance. But the governments which ruled Pakistan for decades here never paid attention to putting ties with Malaysia on a higher keel. Bilateral exchange of visits also were few and far between.
Better late than never, things have begun to change now. Soon after assuming office PM Imran Khan paid a two-day visit to Malaysia in the course of which the two countries vowed to strengthen their bilateral relations. They also decided to improve their bilateral economic and strategic ties, expand trade and investment and create favourable conditions for commerce and business in both countries.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed’s three-day visit in March was in response to the invite extended to him by PM Khan last November.
President Arif Alvi conferred Pakistan’s highest civil award — Nishan-e-Pakistan — on Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed during a ceremony held at President House in Islamabad. Mohamed, the oldest currentlyserving state leader, was honoured by Pakistan “in recognition of his outstanding achievements, invaluable contributions, steadfast friendship and inspiring role as an iconic visionary”, according to a citation.
The royal welcome extended to the Malaysian Prime Minister was an expression of the love and esteem the people of Pakistan have for him. It was indeed a singular honour that the government and people of Pakistan bestowed on PM Mahathir Mohamed by making him the chief guest at the Pakistan Day parade ceremony.
Immediately after the arrival of Mahathir Mohamed the two Prime Ministers held a high level meeting. Both leaders also attended the Pak-Malaysia Business Leaders’ Roundtable Conference, where they addressed business leaders of both countries. At the investment conference, Prime Minister Imran Khan praised his counterpart’s outspoken stance on issues affecting Muslim communities. The prime minister said the conference was about “improving increasing trade between the two countries, learning from the Malaysian model, and investment opportunities”. He said both countries had decided on the formation of a “strong ministerial-level committee which will meet regularly and keep interacting, so we know exactly how we can keep enhancing and increase trade between the two countries.”
Later, addressing a joint press conference, PM Khan spoke on his government’s commitment to emulate Mahathir Mohamed’s achievements in Malaysia. He highlighted PTI’s focus on rooting out corruption and said Malaysia’s progress in that sphere was a prime inspiration. He said: “We firmly believe that nations are not poor and, rather, it is corruption that leads to a loss of resources. Corruption destroys institutions and negates efforts for human development. My party, the PTI, started a campaign against corruption 22 years ago and our drive continues with even greater strength today.” In his turn, PM Mahathir Mohamed stated that he was happy to join the Pakistan Day celebrations: “We have been very well received by PM Khan and the government of Pakistan. We have held bilateral discussions on significant issues affecting Pakistan, Malaysia and the larger Muslim world. We deliberated on ways to enhance our economic relationship with Pakistan, and there is no doubt that both of us stand to benefit from increased trade.”
MOUs SIGNED FOR FIVE BIG PROJECTS
Malaysia and Pakistan signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) for five “big projects” The finance minister, Asad Umar, said Malaysia has shown interest in purchasing JF-17 Thunder fighter jets, halal meat and rice from Pakistan, while Pakistan will provide anti-tank missiles to Malaysia. Umar said that both countries had also agreed to open branches of their respective banks in each other’s countries, and Pakistan would try to make use of Malaysia’s knowledge of tourism as it looks to revive the local industry.
UNDERDEVELOPED MUSLIM WORLD
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed said thatIt is sad that not a single Muslim country is considered ‘developed’. “Malaysia hopes to become a ‘developed’ country by 2025. All Muslim countries must strive to develop themselves too”.
The two sides discussed the possibility of foreign direct investment and outlined other measures that Pakistan and Malaysia need to take to boost trade. Mahathir Mohamed said: “Malaysia remains very concerned by corruption. As PM Imran said, no nation is poor but is brought to that state because of corruption. This is why we came back to power with a promise to combat the corruption that was rampant under the previous government.”
He also noted with regret that not a single Muslim-majority country is truly developed. Malaysia’s aim was to become a developed nation by 2020, but due to corruption, the target has been pushed back till 2025.” Mahathir also spoke on the need for unity among Muslim nations amid a rising wave of Islamophobia around the world: A high-level delegation including leading businessmen came with the Malaysian Prime Minister underlining the economic importance of the visit. More than 25 heads of top Malaysian companies came with him. Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) covering $800-$900 million worth of investments with Malaysian investors were, covering deals in IT, telecom, power generation, textile, agriculture, and halal food industries.
The visit of Malaysian investors is a signal of a major shift in the present government’s policy to expand economic and trade relations with other countries. Malaysia offers a window of opportunity for Pakistan to enter the Asean market for trade and investment through strategic partnerships. Asean is a market of estimated 651 million people, with a GDP of $3 trillion and high human development index.
Pakistan must plan wisely to tap into one of the largest commercial hubs of the world – Asean, which has goods trade volume of around $2.6 trillion, services of volume of around $703 billion and $136 billion in foreign direct investment.
FIGHTING CORRUPTIONPakistan admires the way the Malaysian PM combated corruption and helped the country progress. “People aren’t poor, corruption makes them poor,” he said. PM Mahathir Mohamed stated that everything costs more when there is corruption, said PM Mohamed. “We are concerned about corruption too. We must exchange information on how to combat corruption.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan said that