ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs on Monday called for Pakistan’s expanding commercial and diplomatic footprint in Africa and also noted with concern the country’s growing trade deficit vis-à-vis the African countries.

The committee meeting, chaired by its chairman MNA Mohsin Dawar, was given a detailed briefing by senior officers of the Foreign Office on Pakistan’s relations with African countries.

The panel was informed that Pakistan’s “Engage Africa” rejuvenated the trajectory of Pakistan’s relations with African countries. Prior to the “Engage Africa” policy, the officials said that Pakistan had only 14 missions in 54 African countries.

It was informed that the Covid-19 crisis and the emergence of Africa as a vibrant emerging market laid the foundation of Pakistan’s new pivot to Africa. It was highlighted that Pakistan opened five new missions in Africa; relocated six commercial wings; appointed 26 Honorary Councils; established Rs100 million Africa Fund; expanded bilateral consultations and made significant progress on visa abolition agreements and defense cooperation with a number of African countries.

The committee observed that Pakistan should expand bilateral political relations and engage business communities in joint commissions and business forums. It was also stressed that Pakistan’s high-level engagements and exchanges of delegations with African countries need to be expanded. It was also underlined that Pakistan should expand its presence in UN Formed Police Units in Africa.

The members raised concerns about Pakistan’s growing trade deficit vis-à-vis the African countries and observed that the growing demand for coal and petroleum products caused a spike in Pakistan’s imports from Africa resulting in a trade deficit.

The panel was informed that Kenya, Mozambique, and South Africa constitute Pakistan’s top export partners, and South Africa, Kenya and Morocco are Pakistan’s key import partners.

The members underlined the need to diversify Pakistan’s export basked in terms of market and product exported as Pakistan’s majorly relied on the export of rice to African countries.

The members also decided to invite both the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to identify obstacles in expanding Pakistan’s trade with African countries and formulate recommendation to address the challenges.

The committee members, at the outset of the meeting, raised the matter involving the death of renowned Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya and sought details from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The committee was informed that the Kenyan ambassador was called to the Foreign Office and the Kenyan government has been requested to extend maximum facilitation in the case in question. The committee stressed that Arshad Sharif’s death was a high-profile case and must not be treated as a routine case.

The committee urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to keep the committee updated about the unfolding developments regarding Arshad Sharif’s death in Kenya. The committee members underlined the need for sending Pakistani officials who are expert in investigation to assist the Pakistan High Commission to pursue the case with the Kenyan government.

The meeting was attended by Mohammad Khan Daha, Zahra Wadood Fatemi, Syed Abrar Ali Shah, Zulfiqar Ali Behan, Mohammad Abubakar, and Ramesh Kumar Vankwani.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022


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