The month of March holds a special place in the histories of both Pakistan and Turkey. This month, in many ways, shaped the very destinies as well as the futures of the peoples of the two nations.
On March 23, 1940, the idea of a separate homeland for the Muslims of South Asia was formally adopted during the annual meeting of the All India Muslim League in Lahore. This idea was rooted in the distinct historical, religious and cultural identity of the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent and was first articulated as a political ideal by the great poet-philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal in 1930. The idea saw its realization under the charismatic leadership of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, with the birth of Pakistan on Aug. 14, 1947.
The glorious Turkish victory at Çanakkale in the month of March, served as an inspiration for the Muslims of the subcontinent to initiate their struggle against colonialism. It was this strong historic connection between the ideas and ideals of the two nations – though thousands of miles apart geographically – that prompted the Muslims of South Asia to provide selfless sacrifices and support for their Turkish brothers and sisters in the Turkish War of Independence. Thousands left their homes and donated their belongings in defense of the Turkish lands and people. This glorious saga has few parallels in history.
The founding fathers of Pakistan, including Muhammad Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, were both inspired by personalities like Mehmet Akif Ersoy and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
Iqbal, who considered Mevlana, also known as Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi (or simply Rumi), his spiritual teacher (Peer-e-Rumi), was a great friend of his contemporary, Mehmet Akif Ersoy. Muhammad Iqbal was an ardent admirer of the historical, intellectual and cultural achievements of the people of Turkey, and passionately followed the formative phase of the Republic of Turkey. This bond of association and goodwill was not only limited to the political or intellectual elite in South Asia, but seeped down to the common people in urban and rural areas, who viewed themselves as connected with the political upheavals thousands of miles away, based on a sense of common cultural and religious identity with the people of the Anatolian region.
This great legacy has been bequeathed to the successive generations in the two lands. The history of modern diplomatic relations between the two states is a testimony to the strong bonds between them. The people and governments of both countries have time and again proved that they stand by one another in the most challenging of times.
The rising tide of Islamophobia, religious discrimination and hate crimes against Muslims around the globe is also a matter of grave concern for the two countries. With millions of expatriates abroad and many experiencing this alarming racist phenomenon, the two countries share the resolve to take common initiatives to address the issue. Similar is the case with the scourge of terrorism. Both countries have made tremendous sacrifices in the fight against terrorism and in their quest to make the world a safer place.
With popularly elected leaders in the shape of Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the two countries, the stage is set for a truly transformative phase in this unique relationship.
Pakistan's President Dr. Arif Alvi, after taking the oath of office, paid his first official visit abroad to Turkey and joined the Turkish people and President Erdoğan in their proud moment of inaugurating the grand Istanbul Airport on Oct. 29 last year.
Prime Minister Imran Khan paid his first official visit to Turkey in January 2019. The people of Pakistan are now looking forward to welcoming President Erdoğan to Pakistan in the near future. Inshallah, this visit will be another historic milestone in bilateral relations between the two countries.
Of late, the two countries are working together to promote stronger business and economic ties. The ever-growing Turkish investments in Pakistan are playing an important role in the development and prosperity of Pakistan and bear testimony to the excellent opportunities Pakistan has to offer to foreign investors, particularly Turkish investors.
With the start of an on-arrival visa facility for Turkish citizens earlier this month, Pakistanis are hopeful of welcoming an increasing number of Turkish tourists to Pakistan. We hope that our Turkish brothers and sisters will not only enjoy the great warmth and hospitality of the Pakistani people but will also be able to explore the great geographic beauty, cultural diversity and historical richness of the land that has been connected with Anatolia for centuries.
This year on March 23, we are truly grateful to the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) aerobatic "Solo Turk" team for participating in the fly-past ceremony at Pakistan Day Parade in Islamabad. Also, our heartfelt thanks to the government of Turkey for its gesture of lighting the Bosporus bridges in the colors of the Pakistani flag on the eve of March 23.
The residents of Ankara will also be able to witness Ankara's most distinct landmark – Atakule, situated at the head of the famous Cinnah/Jinnah Caddesi – light up in the colors of the Pakistani flag. Atakule AVM will also host a photography exhibition on the occasion, called "Colors of Pakistan."
To recognize their services in promoting Pakistan-Turkey brotherly ties, former Turkish Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman and former Minister for Health Dr. Recep Akdağ have been awarded Pakistan's highest civil awards "Hilal-i-Pakistan" and "Hilal-i-Imtiaz," respectively, by the president of Pakistan.
Pakistan-Turkey brotherhood is without parallel. It is heart-to-heart and transcends the boundaries of time and geography. Inshallah, this relationship will continue to attain ever-greater heights in the coming years.
Long live Pakistan-Turkey brotherhood!
* Ambassador of Pakistan to Turkey