Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday welcomed Pakistan's decision to hand over schools affiliated with cleric Fethullah Gulen to a Turkish government foundation and declare Pak-Turk International Cag Education Foundation (PTICEF) a proscribed organisation.
Erdogan said this while addressing a joint press conference following his meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Presidential Palace in Ankara.
In a joint declaration issued following the meeting, both the countries "underlined their abiding commitment for fighting the menace of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations" and reiterated their resolve to "fight against the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation (FETO)".
During the meeting, the leaders discussed enhancing of relations and strengthening of economic ties between Pakistan and Turkey, and decided to further augment people-to-people contacts through increased exchanges and cooperation in the areas of education, culture, tourism and youth.
Speaking at the joint press conference, Imran Khan highlighted that the roots of Turkish-Pakistan relationship go back to a very long time and wished to take this affiliation to a much higher level — “a level that so far has not been reached”.
The premier said Pakistan wanted to strengthen its bond with Turkey, not just in trade ties but also in "foreign relations, in our various attitudes to terrorism".
He said Turkey had built over 2 million houses in the last six or seven years which Pakistan would learn from, as it was the first time in Pakistan that "such an ambitious plan has been undertaken".
The prime minister was referring to the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme launched by the federal government for low-income individuals in the country.
Imran Khan also talked about the health reforms of Turkey and the insurance coverage of the underprivileged population, who all had access to quality healthcare, which the premier believed was "probably one of the most important aspects of a civilised society".
Also speaking at the occasion, President Erdogan said he hoped 2019 will be a year when Turkey and Pakistan would take important steps; whether it be high-level strategic council meetings, or the Afghanistan-Pakistan-Turkey Trilateral Istanbul Summit. "The steps that we are going to take within this framework are very important to me," he maintained.
"Meetings between our delegations focused on defence industry cooperation, social and cultural issues, and especially [the] fight against Fethullah [Gulen's] Terrorist Organisation," the Turkish president said.
Erdogan expressed gratitude over the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s decision where it termed the organisation running the Pak-Turk schools a terrorist outfit.
Ankara accuses Gulen of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
The Turkish president further said his country will host the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan for a meeting geared toward bringing peace to Afghanistan. The trilateral meeting would take place in Istanbul after Turkey's March local election, he said.
Meanwhile, Khan told reporters he hoped the meeting would bring “badly needed peace” to Afghanistan.
The prime minister is accompanied on the trip by Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Finance Minister Asad Umar, Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtyar, Adviser to the PM on Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production Razak Dawood and Special Assistant to the PM on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari.
According to Turkish daily Yeni Şafak, the premier in a meeting with Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca and ministry officials said that Pakistan and Turkey have agreed to cooperate in the field of health by setting up a task force.
The premier also visited the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk — founder of modern Turkey — where he laid a wreath and signed a formal guest book, Yeni Safak reported.
As per the report, in his message Prime Minister Khan wrote that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had described Ataturk as "one of the greatest men who has ever lived".
Earlier in the day, the prime minister met with a delegation of the Turkey-Pakistan Business Council of the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey.
While addressing the delegation, the premier said that Pakistan in the 1970s "went wrong because we had a socialist mindset which became a deterrent to wealth creation."
The premier continued that though the socialist regime stepped down in the subsequent decades, the mindset prevailed among the bureaucracy. He added that the PTI-led government, however, supports investments and is taking measures to create money-making opportunities.
He assured the Turkish business leaders of an investor-friendly environment in Pakistan under the PTI government. "We, as a government, are now making every effort to remove impediments in the way of investments," he said, adding that a separate cell has been established at the Prime Minister Secretariat to monitor the process.
"We have already discussed the issues being faced by Turkish investors in Pakistan," he said, adding that the current government's top priority was the export sector.
The prime minister referred to the Chinese model as his inspiration for governance. "They [China] have taken 700 million people out of poverty in the last 30 years. Our main concern is also to take people out of poverty."
It is expected that the prime minister’s visit to Turkey will bring some respite in the prevailing economic crunch in Pakistan as some memoranda of understanding on trade and investment are likely to be inked between the two sides.
Invitation to invest
In a late-night address on Thursday to the Turkish business fraternity in Ankara, Prime Minister Khan invited Turkish businessmen and investors to invest in various fields and industries in Pakistan, including construction, tourism and exploration of natural resources.
He said that his government had streamlined the governance system and removed red-tapism and hurdles in Pakistan to facilitate foreign investors. “We want to provide ease of doing business to the businessmen and investors for wealth and jobs creation,” he said.
The prime minister invited Turkish investors and construction firms to invest in his government’s five-year plan of building five million houses.
Earlier, the prime minister and his delegation arrived in Konya.
To pay homage to Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, the prime minister and his delegation visited the great Sufi saint’s mausoleum. He also visited the symbolic grave of Allama Iqbal located in the graveyard where Maulana Rumi’s mausoleum stands.