H.E. Tariq AzimKhan
High Commissioner of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to Canada
Pakistan is keen to engage in a ‘full spectrum’ partnership, including in trade and investment sectors
Interview by MianFazal Elahi
H.E Tariq Azim Khan has been a very active and energetic person. H.E. Tariq Azim Khan, joined as High Commissioner for Pakistan to Canada on 28 September 2015. Before being appointed as High Commissioner to Canada, H.E. Tariq Azim Khanwas elected as a Senator to the Senate of Pakistan for the term 2003-2006, and was re-elected in 2006 for 2006-2012 term. H.E. Tariq Azim Khan served as Federal Minister of State for Overseas Pakistanis from 2004 to 2006 and Federal Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting from 2006 to 2007. The Diplomatic Focus got the opportunity to talk to His Excellency and learn about his early life, education, career, experiences and most importantly his role as High Commissioner in bringing Canada and Pakistan closer in terms of trade, diplomatic, education and cultural ties.
DF: Excellency! First of all, we arethankful to you for giving time. After that, I would like to learn a bit about your early life, education and career.
My early education was at St. Patricks School Rawalpindi. After graduation from Gordon College, Rawalpindi, I did my Post Graduate studies in Industrial Administration from London and MBA from Brunel University, London.During education I also took part in debates and played cricket. I took part in student’s union during college days and was elected President in 1963.
DF: Pakistan and Canada are enjoying cordial relations. How do you see the bilateral ties between the two nations over the years?
Pakistan-Canada relations are based on strong foundations of friendship and cooperation. In our initial decades after independence, Canada contributed to the completion of a number of important development projects like the Warsak Dam, Tarbela Dam, the first nuclear energy plant and the first cement plant in Pakistan. Later, Canada offered technical cooperation for Agricultural Research Projects in 1980s.
Pakistan considers Canada very important partner for the size of its economy and membership of important fora like G-7, G-20, WTO and the Commonwealth. Pakistan is keen to engage in a ‘full spectrum’ partnership, including in trade and investment sectors.
We appreciate that Canada also seeks to enhance relations with emerging economies and partners in Asia. It is very encouraging to note that the volume of our bilateral trade in goods alone has doubled in the last three years from C$ 703.7 million in 2014 to C$ 1.4 billion in 2016.
In 2017, the volume of trade in goods stood at C$ 1.1 billion. However, it is far below the existing potential and both sides are working together to enhance bilateral trade.
DF: Excellency! A significant Pakistani diaspora are active contributors to Canada economy and welfare. What are the statistics numbers of Pakistanis over in Canada? Furthermore, what is the role playing by Pakistani High Commission for their development and nurturing?
There are almost half a million Canadians of Pakistani origin. First and foremost, there is a dire need for Pakistani Canadians to get involved in mainstream Canada to work on the issues affecting them in their adopted land. The Community needs to devise a strategy to introduce our rich and diverse cultural values to the Canadians and to promote understanding and goodwill for our Community and social values. In my interaction with Community I persuade them to actively participate in the Canadian politics, culture and charitable events.
DF: Excellency! Canada is one of the important country of North America.Recently Pakistani Commerce Minister visit to Canada, which shows that Pakistan seeks greater market access for its exports to Canada. Would you like to share the information of volume for trade and the products which are import/export between the two countries? And how do you see the export opportunities for Pakistani businesses to Canada? What are the outcomes of Minister’s Visit?
The Commerce Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Pervaiz Malik visited Canada from February 12 – 16, 2018 at the invitation of Canadian Minister for International Trade. The last bilateral visit of any of our Federal Minister at the invitation of Government of Canada took place in 2003. The Minister had a detailed meeting with Mr. Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister for International Trade. The Minister informed the Canadian counterpart that under the WTO, Pakistan is looking for level playing field for export of its goods to Canadian market and issues like, travel advisory for visit to Pakistan and visa restrictions for Pakistani businessmen are hampering bilateral trade. He urged for immediate removal of these irritants in order to enhance bilateral trade volume.
Both the sides agreed to hold high powered joint working group meeting in Islamabad during March 2018 to remove the hurdles in enhancing bilateral trade and to engage meaningfully to develop partnership in economic, trade, agriculture and investment sectors.
The Minister also met with Mr. Ahmed Hussen, Minister for Immigration, Mr. Lawrence MacAulayMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, and Ontario’s Minister for International Trade, Mr. Michael Chan. The visit provided an excellent opportunity to put across our point of view on issues of importance to us.
DF: What are the diverse trading prospects that Pakistan is offering to Canada to invest in Pakistan? What are the areas which Pakistan and Canada can explore to cooperate with each other?
With 210 million consumers, Pakistan is a promising market. I appreciate the interest of Canadian energy firms to explore the market in Pakistan in recent months. Likewise, Pakistani businessmen attend the textile, construction and food industry exhibitions in Canada regularly. Canada’s major corporations like SNC-Lavalin, Canada Solar and smaller chains such as Second Cup Coffee have their presence in Pakistan and we are working to bring in more investment from Canada to Pakistan.
DF: As a High Commissioner, your role is very crucial in the bilateral ties and have keen eye on International relations. My questions is that how do you see the current polarization in bilateral ties among the nations? And how Pakistan can get benefits in new paradigms of relations and ties?
I believe that personal contacts matters and regular exchange of visits by officials, businessmen and people to people contacts could bring together nations. Pakistan can benefit from enhancing economic and trade relations with the international community and in this regard Pakistani diaspora can also play important role in bridging the gaps.
DF: Excellency! What are the facilities and policies you developed in the High Commissionfor the Pakistanis living in Canadaafter joining themission?
Our policies are focused on providing improved counselor facilities at the High Commission and the Consulates for Pakistani-Canadians. We try to provide better services to the community members. I regularly meet with community organizations/members during my visits to the Consulates and oversee all the facilities being provided to the people who visit our facilities.
DF: Excellency! You are actively participating in culture and other events in Canadaregularly. In these modern days, the importance of cultural ties has been increased so much. What do you think what further steps should be taken to enhance and boost cultural ties between Pakistan and Canada furthermore?
Exchange of ideas, values and other aspects of culture strengthen relationships and enhance socio-cultural cooperation. We try to benefit from all opportunities to showcase our food, dress, products and music to the Canadians. In this regard Pakistani diaspora also plays an important role to introduce our cultural values to the Canadian friends.
DF: Pakistan is blessed with natural beauty. Excellency! My question is how both countries can promote tourism and what are the barriers are being faced by this divers sector?
Pakistan can be a best tourist destination in the world. Pakistan has a lot to offer to the international tourists. Now that we have improved security situation and better infrastructure, we are inviting Canadians to visit our northern areas and cities which are cultural hubs. The religious tourism has a great potential as Pakistan is the birth place of three major religions.
DF: Excellency! During the recent visit of Minister of Commerce, we heard that The Canadian Minister for Immigration briefed the Commerce Minister about the steps being taken to ease visa processing for Pakistani businessmen, students and tourists. Can you put some light on those steps?
We have taken up the issuance of visas to Pakistan businessmen, tourists and international students with the Minister for immigration. It’s heartening to note that the Canadian immigration authorities decreased the processing time for issuance of visit visas from 55 days to 23 days. We have been informed that family/ spousal visas processing time has been improved significantly. We expect that the Canadian side will further make it easier for Pakistani tourists, businessmen and students to get visit visa. We are working closely with the Canadian immigration department on this issue.
DF: Excellency! 23rd of March is very important day in history of Pakistan and been celebrated widely. How Canadian Pakistani celebrating this day and specially at the High Commission level?
The High Commission celebrates the day with flag raising ceremony at Ottawa and at the Consulate Generals of Pakistan at Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Moreover, a reception is also held at Ottawa in which Federal Ministers, Member of Parliament, Federal and Provincial officials, media persons and community notable are invited. Availing the opportunity we also show documentaries during receptions to portray the image of Pakistan.
DF: How do you see the role of ‘Diplomatic Focus’ in enhancing the bilateral ties of Pakistan with other countries of the world?
Diplomatic Focus is playing a very powerful role in projecting Pakistan’s strengths in the international community. We appreciate the endeavors of the Magazine to introduce Pakistan’s culture and touristic value to the diplomatic circles. I wish you and your team success in this noble cause.
Thanks a lot Your Excellency! For giving us some of your precious time from your busy schedule and of course for your nice talk.