Dr Hasrul Sani bin Mujtabar High Commissioner of Malaysia to Pakistan
Jahangir’s World Times: Pakistan and Malaysia are enjoying good brotherly relations. When were the relations formally established?
HE Dr Hasrul Sani bin Mujtabar: Malaysia established its relations with Pakistan soon after our independence in 1957. The High Commission of Malaysia in Pakistan was established in the same year. In the early years of its inception, the High Commission of Malaysia was placed in Karachi, which was the capital of Pakistan then. However, in 1968, the High Commission was moved to Islamabad.
Following this, two Honorary Consulates were established in Karachi in 1977 and later in Lahore in 1993. Recognising the importance of Pakistan and Malaysia relations since 1957, the Consulate General of Malaysia in Karachi was instituted in 2004 that is headed by a Consul General.
At present, High Commission of Malaysia has strength of 12 Home-Based Staff (HBS) and 25 Locally Recruited Staff (LRS). The agencies representing the High Commission are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Defence and Immigration Department of Malaysia.
JWT: Pakistan and Malaysia do not share common borders. Malaysia is in the ASEAN organisation, whereas Pakistan falls in the SAARC region. So, what do you think are the common bonds between Malaysia and Pakistan?
HSM: We are primarily bound together by many factors. Our religion, Islam, is the most important bond. Secondly, we are also bound by the traditions and historical experience with Pakistan. Pakistan is also a member of ASEAN Regional Forum whereas Malaysia is a full-fledged member of ASEAN. Pakistan and Malaysia are very active members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). In short, Malaysia and Pakistan have many things in common. Even on the platform of the OIC, Malaysia and Pakistan share many common objectives. The two countries are in the usual business of high-level contacts on regular basis. Many of your presidents and prime ministers have visited Malaysia. Similarly, Malaysian prime ministers have also been visiting Pakistan since our independence.
JWT:-But in the recently held D-8 Summit in Pakistan, your prime minister stayed away from coming to Pakistan. President of Indonesia along with President of Nigeria and Prime Minister of Turkey came to Pakistan. But your prime minister was not here?
HSM: Our Prime Minister would have loved to attend the summit in Islamabad. In fact, it was his great desire to be here. However, he got pressing engagements in the region. In fact, there were elections in Cambodia those days. Similarly, there were some electoral issues even inside Malaysia. So the prime minister of Malaysia could not come over. But despite the hectic engagements in Malaysia and the region, our Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin bin Yassin came to Pakistan along with our Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman to attend the D-8 Summit in Islamabad. I assure you that Malaysia always gives lot of importance to Pakistan and Malaysia regards Pakistan as its brotherly country.
JWT: Now that we are talking of D-8 Summit, what were the achievements? Do you really feel that the organization has been able to achieve its objectives?
HSM: The Summit was supposed to talk about enhancing trade and investment among the member countries. We, the Malaysians, give lot of importance to trade among the Muslim countries. On the sideline of D-8 Summit, trade exhibition was organized. In the said exhibition, eight Malaysian companies participated.
There was no Charter of the Organization. In Islamabad, D-8 Charter was signed. The Global Vision of the D-8 was signed. But still, there is no doubt. That the organisation is underutilised regarding its potential. Therefore, much more is needed to be done.
JWT: You said the D-8 is yielding far below its potential. What do you recommend to make the organization deliver at par its potential?
HSM: The crux of the matter is that we should have mutually massive trade. At the moment, we trade with others more than we trade with each other. We have to fully implement the Preferential Trade Agreement between us. We need not allow the complicated issues hamper our trade links.
JWT: How can Pakistan and Malaysia further promote bilateral relations, particularly in the realm of people-to-people contacts in the cultural fields etc?
HSM: Pakistan and Malaysia have historically enjoyed very cordial relations. There can be many options to further promote bilateral relations. Education is one field where there is a lot of scope for enhancing relations. At the moment, there are more than 3200 Pakistani students studying in different educational institutions in Malaysia. Tourism can be another field whereby we can promote our relations. Last year, around 27 million tourists visited Malaysia, among them, around 23,000 were Pakistanis. Tourism should be given serious consideration for a binding force between the two countries.
There can also be cooperation in film industry. We can have joint ventures in the film industry, drama production can be shared. There are beautiful locations in Pakistan and we can jointly produce films here. I am already working on such a project.
We are also setting up a Malaysian food restaurant in Islamabad. It will be a place to have pure Malaysian food available. The Malaysian delicatessen will be available here. Once we have positive response in Islamabad, we shall open Malaysian food restaurant in other cities of Pakistan.
On 25 October 2012, I, accompanied by Mr. Aiyub bin Omar, Head of Chancery of Malaysia, met Mr. Manzar Khurshid Sheikh, President of the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Rawalpindi at his office. The purpose of the meeting was to promote greater economic ties and bilateral relations between Malaysia and Pakistan. The President of RCCI was accompanied by the other members of the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. You will soon find Northern Chapter of Pak-Malaysia Business Council.