Marking its 70th anniversary of relations with Egypt, Pakistan takes CPEC to Cairo

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The Egyptian-Pakistani Forum kicked off its activities on Monday in Cairo, marking the 70th anniversary of the beginning of relations between the two countries. (Arab News photo)
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The Egyptian Minister of Planning Hala Al-Saeed speaking in the conference. ( Arab News photo)
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Federal Minister for Planning and Development Khusro Bakhtiar speaking during the conference. ( Arab News photo)
Updated 25 September 2018
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Marking its 70th anniversary of relations with Egypt, Pakistan takes CPEC to Cairo

  • South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) in Islamabad has organized two-day conference in Egypt
  • The conference explores economic opportunities under the CPEC

CAIRO: The Egyptian-Pakistani Forum has kicked off its activities on Monday here, marking the 70th anniversary of the beginning of relations between the two countries.

The conference is organized by the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) in Islamabad for two days (Sept. 24-25).

Dr. Maria Sultan, the SASSI’s director general, inaugurated the conference.

The Federal Minister for Planning and Development Khusro Bakhtiar, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Egypt Mushtaq Ali Shah and other representatives from Egyptian and Pakistani ministries, including the Egyptian Minister of Planning Hala Al-Saeed, attended the conference inauguration.

“Pakistan has been and will continue to be supportive of investments in Egypt, especially in the Suez Canal region, and we are happy to partner with a pivotal country in the region and the world,” said Minister of Planning and Development Makhdoom Bakhtiar in his opening remarks.

He added: “Egypt is a promising country and the legislative environment for investments is ready to attract more projects. Pakistan has always provided a helping hand to its brothers from the Islamic world to make a continuous partnership in several fields.”

In spite of the economic investment orientation of the Forum, the issue of the war on terror was present.

Bakhtiar stressed the priority Egypt puts in the fight against terror and in bringing national security. He added that Pakistan had also had problems with terrorism for many years, and praised the Pakistani minister in Egypt for continued understanding and cooperation in the matter.

The Egyptian Minister of Planning Hala Al-Saeed expressed her happiness about this cooperation between Egypt and Pakistan. She stressed that the forum represents an important platform for dialogue and cooperation between the two countries, and that they are keen to promote and develop bilateral relations in various fields, and to elevate these relations to broad horizons.

The Egyptian minister discussed investment opportunities in Egypt, especially in the Suez Canal area, and concluded her participation in the opening session by saying: “Long live Egypt. Long live Pakistan.”

The establishment of official diplomatic relations between the two countries began in 1948. Egypt was the first country in the Middle East to open an embassy in Pakistan after its independence.

However, despite the existence of a contractual and institutional framework, the results and outcome of the cooperation is limited as the volume of trade exchange between the two countries was $231 million in 2017. This shows co-investment between two countries does not reflect the standard of relationship and resources the countries have, whether it be human resources or otherwise.

This conference is exploring economic opportunities mainly due to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative The project, unveiled by President Xi Jinping in 2013, aims to increase a number of land and sea links within Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

“Trade through the Indian Ocean is expected to rise with the emergence of China as a global economic superpower,” said a SASSI statement.

Head of the Commercial Representation Authority Ahmed Antar said that the conference comes at an important time to enhance the partnership between the two, pointing out that the Suez Canal and the port of Gwadar in Pakistan are two of the most important ports on the Silk Road, and represent a huge opportunity to enhance cooperation between Egypt and Pakistan in the fields of trade, especially with the amount of traffic expected to hit the two ports in the coming years.

He added that Egypt and Pakistan enjoy huge advantages that enable the two countries to achieve great growth and economic integration. Egypt occupies a distinguished geographic location between the continents of Asia and Africa, and Pakistan is located in the heart of Asia. The Egyptian Government seeks to enhance cooperation with Pakistan, especially in the fields of telecommunications, insurance, information technology and international trade.

The conference program includes sessions in the fields of navigation, logistics and transportation, natural resources, banking and finance, trade and supply chains, and women’s role in trade, as well as sessions for small-to-medium enterprises and media.

The conference is to be held by a group of ministers and senior representatives of the Pakistan Government, including members of the Ministries of Planning and Development, Navigation Affairs, Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Finance, Science and Technology, Commerce, Information, and Industry and Production. There will also be a large number of speakers and representatives of various government agencies, the Central Bank and Pakistani banks.

The Egyptian side also includes representatives from the Ministries of Commerce and Industry, Investment and International Cooperation, Petroleum, Communications and Information Technology, the Central Bank of Egypt, the Financial Supervision Authority and the Suez Canal Economic Zone.


Egypt bucks trend with vote to extend El-Sisi rule

Updated 30 min 46 sec ago
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Egypt bucks trend with vote to extend El-Sisi rule

  • On April 16, the parliament overwhelmingly approved changes extending presidential terms from four to six years
  • The amendments would prolong El-Sisi’s current term to 2024 and allow him to then run for another six-year term

CAIRO: In a referendum bucking the trend of the region’s mini-Arab Spring, Egyptians are to start voting Saturday on constitutional amendments that extend President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s rule until at least 2024.
The vote running from April 20-22 was officially announced on Wednesday, a day after parliament overwhelmingly approved the changes extending presidential terms from four to six years.
The amendments — widely expected to pass in the face of minimal opposition — would prolong El-Sisi’s current term to 2024 from 2022 and allow him to then run for another six-year term.
They also include giving the military greater influence in political life, granting El-Sisi wide control over the judiciary and broadening the jurisdiction of military courts over civilians.
Egypt has been preparing for the referendum at the same time as parliament debated the amendments since the start of April.
Banners and billboards have gone up across the capital Cairo in the past weeks urging people to take part.
Many carry slogans implicitly urging people to back the amendments by doing “the right thing,” while others sponsored by the pro-government Nation’s Future party call outright for a “Yes” vote.
The referendum comes after two veteran presidents, Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Omar Al-Bashir, were ousted in Algeria and Sudan, respectively, this month following mass street demonstrations.
MP Mohamed Abu-Hamed, who pushed for the constitutional amendments to keep El-Sisi in power, is adamant the changes are needed to allow the president to complete political and economic reforms.
El-Sisi “took important political, economic and security measures... (and) must continue with his reforms,” in the face of the unrest gripping neighboring countries, the deputy told AFP.
The Soufan Center, however, said Thursday that the amendments would “solidify El-Sisi’s grip on the Egyptian political regime.”
“There is little observable public opposition to the constitutional changes, likely a result of the oppressive nature of the Egyptian government,” said the think tank.
Under El-Sisi, “Egypt has become even more autocratic than it was under (long-time ruler Hosni) Mubarak,” it said.
As army chief of staff at the time, El-Sisi led the military’s overthrow of elected president Muhammad Mursi in 2013 following mass protests against the Islamist leader’s rule.
He won his first term as president in 2014, three years after the uprising that toppled Mubarak, and was re-elected in March 2018 with more than 97 percent of the vote, after standing virtually unopposed.
His government has been widely criticized by human rights groups for the repression of political opponents.
But the “recent political upheavals in Algeria and Sudan have little hope of being replicated in Egypt, where the initial murmurings of the Arab Spring have since been silenced,” said the Soufan Center.
Other constitutional amendments include a quota for women’s representation of no less than 25 percent in parliament and forming a second parliamentary chamber.
Activists including Human Rights Watch have blasted the main changes as part of a campaign to cement El-Sisi’s “authoritarian rule.”
Amnesty International said that by approving the amendments, parliamentarians had shown a “complete disregard for human rights.”
The haste with which the referendum has been pushed through prompted Egyptian and international human rights groups to call the electoral process “unfree and unfair.”
“The current national climate in Egypt is devoid of any space in which a... referendum can occur with... guarantees of partiality and fairness,” rights groups said in a joint statement.
Parliament’s small opposition “25-30 Alliance” is urging Egypt’s electorate to reject the amendments.
With the overwhelming majority of the media in the El-Sisi camp, dissenting voices have been largely restricted to social networks.