SPECIAL FEATURE ON PAKISTAN FOR USA TODAY
1.The current government has now been in power for over seven months. From an overseas perspective, how do you see Pakistan evolving under the new PTI government?
Prime Minister Imran Khan has a significant following amongst expatriate Pakistanis the world over. Prior to leading the government, the Prime Minister enjoyed tremendous popularity amongst all walks of people and across all ages as a Cricket icon. The present government has laid great stress on promoting tourism and its related infrastructure as well as the hospitality industry in general. It has also focused on social welfare projects as well as taken measures to ensure protection of minority communities and the vulnerable segments of the society.
2. Can you please explain us your role as Consul General of Pakistan. What are you aiming to achieve for the next years?
As the Consul General of Pakistan based in Houston, my area of jurisdiction stretches all the way from Texas to New Mexico covering tens states along the southern region of the United States. This area also has some major concentration of Pakistani American communities in Texas, Florida and Georgia primarily. The job of the Consul General can be divided into four broad areas including representation of Pakistan in the area of jurisdiction; official focal point for local administration in these ten states; service to the Pakistani American community for their Pakistani documents as well as any welfare service that may be required in cases of destitute Pakistanis and promoting trade and investment between Pakistan and the US through connecting companies and products both ways.
3. One of your main mission as Consul General of Pakistan in Houston is to intensify Pakistan’s relationship with States such as Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana. What are the main projects you are working on at the moment? How are you planning on developing Pakistan’s relationship with these US States?
Building bilateral relationship between our two countries is a multifaceted job that requires interaction in all aspects, be it political out- reach to US lawmakers in this region or through encouraging and facilitating various businesses to explore investments and joint ventures in Pakistan across diverse economic fields. It is an ongoing effort that has no end date. There is always more to do.
4. Through the Pakistani communities that you cover, what intrigues them the most about Pakistan? In which sectors do you see the best business opportunities?
Pakistani American community is diverse and well established in the US. Each member of this community tells the tale of hard work, discipline, and a commitment to achieving success and become part of the overall success story of America. Each one of them was enchanted by the American dream. They are also deeply nostalgic and emotionally invested in the well being of their country of origin. Many have sought to invest in various economic projects in Pakistan, while others seek to contribute towards the social development agenda of Pakistan, in education, health etc.
5. You started your career as an alternate delegate to Pakistan Permanent Mission UNESCO in Paris; you them moved to the Pakistan Embassy in Cairo as first secretary and later joined the Pakistan High Commission in London as a political counselor before working at the Pakistan Embassy in Ankara as deputy head of mission. How does it feel like to be the consul general of Pakistan in Houston? And what do you feel most proud of, in your personal life?
I have been a member of the Diplomatic service of Pakistan since 25 years now, having served in various other posts abroad as well as at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad. The post of a Consul General is a public job unlike my previous assignments which were more desk bound and behind the scenes as such. It has been quite a learning curve to interact with a large Diaspora community as the Consul General in these three years in Houston. It has provided a wonderful opportunity to study and compare the aspirations of the expatriate community in the US compared to their counterparts in other parts of the world as well as within Pakistan. I hope to be able to write about this experience at some future date. I think I have gained enormous appreciation of the diversity and complexity of immigrant communities as a phenomenon. Increasingly the world is witnessing mobile populations and the sense of being brought closer through digital communication and yet at the same time immigration has become a divisive issue for many countries and regions in the world. So my three years in Houston have provided a fascinating vantage point to study these emerging global issues.
6. What is your final message to the readers of USA Today who consider Pakistan as a potential investment destination or are looking for joint ventures in the country?
My message is simple: we live in a world where reality has become subservient to perception. Visit Pakistan and experience this ancient land and modern country for yourself. Experience the hospitality, generosity and simplicity of its people, the beauty of its landscape and the thrill of its cultures. Be a part of an emerging Pakistan and explore business opportunities in different sectors such as tourism, hospitality, energy, digital applications, software development, infrastructure development etc.