KARACHI: Pakistan has always been there for its Somali brothers. We remember how the Pakistani government helped us fight terrorism.
Ambassador of Somalia to Pakistan Khadija Mohamed Almakhzoumi shared these views while talking to The Express Tribune. Pakistan and Somalia have had diplomatic relations since December 1960.
The ties became deeper as the two countries became part of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) set up in 1969.
“Somalia first opened its embassy in Pakistan in 1976,” said Almakhzoumi. “The two countries have had strong diplomatic relations.” She added that friendship between the two countries deepened when OIC was formed.
According to Almakhzoumi, Pakistan has always been there for its Somali brothers. “Defence ties of the past can be viewed in the same context,” she said, recalling how Pakistan helped Somalia ‘fight terrorism’. “We, on our part, are learning how to fight terrorism and will learn from Pakistan’s experience in fighting it.” Reactivating the consulate in Karachi Somalia has recently reactivated its consulate in Karachi. “For the past 25 years, our consulate wasn’t too active in Karachi,” said the ambassador. “It really became active about two months back.
The need was felt to enhance the outreach of our community and students who live in Karachi. Also, we have strong business ties with Pakistan.”
Trade and cultural exchange
Almakhzoumi said Somalia exports a lot of items from Pakistan and sees Karachi as the hub of activity. “The business side is very important to building concrete relations between the two countries,” she said. “We plan to bring our best foot forward, establish our consulate here and cooperate on those ground of business relations. Through this consulate, we plan to facilitate our community that is based here.”
Talking about the growing cultural exchange between the two countries, she said that on July 1 this year, they will organise a cultural show. “We plan to show the culture of Somalia to people in Karachi,” she said. “In the near future, we plan to have a friendly football match to enhance our friendship and [enhance] our ties.” According to the ambassador, there are nearly 1,000 Somali students enrolled in different universities and educational institutes of Pakistan. “As far as I see, the future is very bright definitely,” she said. “As I would like to describe it, Somalia had its own problems.
Even Pakistan [has] suffered. But with a tight, well-knit and strong relationship, we can fight terrorism.”
From Iraq to Pakistan
Almakhzoumi was stationed in Islamabad in August 2016. Earlier, she was the ambassador of Somalia in Iraq.
According to her, shifting to a stable country like Pakistan from a war-torn country like Iraq was a major shift. “I find Pakistanis to be beautiful people,” she said. “[It is] a Muslim country like ours [and there are] commonalities along cultural lines. It’s very easy to communicate your preference [here] except for the language barrier.”According to Almakhzoumi, her children are learning Urdu at their school in Islamabad. She said that she, too, wants to learn Urdu. “Why not?” she asked. “It would be easier to watch local movies and all that on TV!”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2017.