Community facilitation in consular services has been among my foremost priorities

Around 95% of Pakistan’s exports to UK are now subject to zero duty

“Aims” Magazine is an excellent endeavour, we need such publications,
Special with interview Moazzam Ahmad Khan High Commissioner

Interview/ Wajahat Ali Khan

H.E. Moazzam Ahmad Khan is a career diplomat and a thorough gentleman, he assumed the charge of the office of High Commissioner for Pakistan last year in September to the United Kingdom. Mr Khan’s diplomatic career spans over three decades. Prior to his current assignment, he was serving as Special Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
During his career in the Foreign Service of Pakistan, Mr Khan held various diplomatic assignments in Pakistan Missions abroad including Washington, Nairobi, The Hague, and New Delhi. Besides, he served as Ambassador of Pakistan to The Netherlands and the UAE.

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Khan served as Director General (Europe), Director General (Foreign Minister’s Office) and Spokesperson. He holds master’s degree in Economics as well as master’s degree in International Relations and International Economics from Johns Hopkins University, USA.
“Aims International” conduct an exclusive interview with him at the Pakistan high commission UK, the details of which are given to the readers.
Q) Why has the prime Minister of Pakistan not been able to pay an official visit to the UK in the last three years?
A) Prime Minister Imran Khan looks at the UK as his second home, having spent many years of his life in this beautiful country. He and Prime Minister Boris Johnson enjoy a warm relationship. You would have seen the message sent out by Prime Minister Johnson appreciating Pakistan’s climate mitigation efforts under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan on World Environment Day. The two leaders speak often and remain in touch.
Pakistan-UK friendship itself is multi-dimensional, buttressed by the 1.6 million British nationals who trace their origin to Pakistan, and act as a strong bridge between our two countries. Over the last three years, there have been multiple Ministerial visits both from and to, Pakistan. The two sides are working on an ambitious agenda to take relations to the next level.

As you are aware however that the world, including Pakistan and the UK have been grappling with unprecedented circumstances in the shape of the Pandemic. This has been consuming a great deal of energies. A visit by Prime Minister Imran Khan to the UK is certainly on the cards. Circumstances permitting, we hope to see it transpire soon.
Q) The UK did not remove Pakistan from the travel red list when India was removed, is there were some political factors, or it was incompetence of the Pakistan’s foreign office?
A) I believe it is neither. One must appreciate that we are dealing with a once-in-a-generation crisis, on which there are no good guidelines, and no definitive rule book. All countries are doing what they can, to mitigate risks and protect their citizens. Differences in interpreting data and tackling emerging threats based on diverse contexts are bound to crop up and must be resolved through patient consultation. Thanks to close coordination between the leadership, parliamentarians, and technical experts of Pakistan and the UK, Pakistan is now off the red list.
The traffic light system itself, and the red listing of Pakistan generated a good deal of uncertainty and discomfort among Pakistanis who wished to travel to the UK and British Pakistanis who have families back in Pakistan. Taking Pakistan off the list was therefore the right thing to do. I am glad that it has finally come about.
The Foreign Offices of the two sides played their role in achieving this outcome. Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of Pakistan have raised this matter with their British counterparts. I have raised this issue at every level here in the UK. British Pakistani parliamentarians, Mayors, Councillors and community members also played a commendable role in sensitizing their government and raising awareness.
Q) The last four high commissioners, including you, were nearing retirement so why was he appointed High commissioner to the UK. The general impression is that diplomats secure their own and their children’s future in London?
A) This is an incorrect assumption based on insufficient information. Syed Ibne Abbas retired in Pakistan after completing his posting tenure here as the High Commissioner. His successor, Sahebzada Ahmed Khan is still serving. Only my predecessor, Mohammad Nafees Zakariya superannuated from here. Currently he is serving as Member of the Federal Public Service Commission in Pakistan. You would agree that London is an important capital for Pakistan. Decisions regarding posting of High Commissioners are made on merit by the leadership after taking into consideration a variety of factors including relevant experience, seniority, demands of a station and suitability for holding a particular post. Performance of Heads of Missions is constantly monitored in real time, and those not measuring up to the mark can be recalled prematurely.
On a separate note, I may add that my children are grown up, and well settled. So, I am beyond the stage in life where one must worry about settling one’s children. I may also add that generating the patently false perception that somehow this prestigious appointment, which is a matter of pride for any professional diplomat, is the consequence of nepotism, does not serve the country’s interests well.

Q) Your wife is also a diplomat, why did she separate from diplomacy? Two ambassadors in one home, who rules the house?
A) Life, like diplomacy, is all about partnership grounded in trust. Ambassador Leena Salim Moazzam has recently retired from service but remains active as on the social and cultural scene as my spouse. Having been a working woman all her life, she is passionate about women empowerment and participation in the work force and is working towards this end both in the UK and Pakistan. She is also involved in various philanthropic activities here and in Pakistan.
I feel fortunate to have in her, a life partner who has complemented me in every possible way. By the grace of Allah, we lead a happy and blissful life.
Q) In the past, people have been expressing concerns about Consular Services, especially Passport service. What steps are you taking to improve it?
A) Community facilitation and improvement in consular services has been among my foremost priorities. Prime Minister Imran Khan attaches salience to the welfare of Overseas Pakistanis. And this is reflected in the approach of the High Commission towards community matters.
In line with the directions of the Prime Minister, Virtual Khuli Katchehris, chaired by me in London and by our Consuls General in the four Consulates are held every month. They enable the Missions to obtain feedback from Overseas Pakistanis and address their problems in real time.
This is only one of the many steps I have taken to improve accessibility of the public to the Missions. Online appointment system has been streamlined and is now open for booking three months in advance. Senior citizens over 65, persons with special needs, those facing an emergency back home such as the death of a loved one, and destitute Pakistanis are however exempt from booking requirements.
24/7 emergency phone numbers are operative, and our website now incorporates an online chat facility. We are also improving our community outreach using social media and mass emails. To redress Overseas Pakistanis’ complaints relating to property matters, I have set up a separate desk at the High Commission headed by an officer. To bring consular services to the doorstep of end-users, NADRA and IMPASS surgeries to various locations in the UK have now resumed after a hiatus.

All through the Pandemic, the Mission never shut its doors to the community. Continued rendering of essential services was ensured. The call centre remained fully functional. Some 1,000 British Pakistanis were facilitated in traveling to Pakistan, and through the period of red listing, the Mission remained actively engaged with host authorities in addressing the complaints of returnees required to undergo compulsory quarantine in a government designated facility. During the month of Ramadan, food rations were distributed to some 200 families in quarantine.
Q) Why do the NADRA teams that perform surgeries in different mosques in the UK charge 10 pounds more than the fixed fee?
A) As per the Government of Pakistan’s notification, only £10 are charged, in addition to standard processing as Mobile Registration Operation Handling Charges. This is because taking the entire NADRA operation including personnel and equipment to various locations entails additional costs.
Q) What is the Current State of Pakistan -UK Bilateral Trade?
A) The warm and close friendship between Pakistan and the UK has translated over the years, into a robust economic partnership, that benefits both the countries. For this reason, the UK is currently Pakistan’s third largest export destination, second largest source of foreign direct investment and third largest source of remittances.
Despite disruptions caused by the Pandemic, Pakistan-UK trade has registered visible improvement, having reached over $2.6 billion in 2020-21. During this period, Pakistan’s exports to the UK crossed the $2 billion mark for the first time. This is the first time ever that this has happened. During the previous two financial years i.e., 2019-20 & 2018-19, Pakistan’s exports remained $1.5 billion and $1.6 billion respectively. In the post Brexit scenario, in addition to traditional products including textiles and leather goods, new product lines have been added including tangerines, guava, and bitter gourd.
Q) What efforts have you made so far to improve trade and investment? What are you doing to improve bilateral Trade?
A) Post Brexit Britain offers tremendous opportunities for exploring fresh avenues for further exploring trade and investment opportunities. My priority however was to ensure that Pakistan continued to enjoy the same GSP trade concessions from the UK that we did under the EU banner. With effect from 1 January 2021, the British government granted unilateral trade concessions to Pakistan at par with EU GSP Plus. Under this arrangement, around 95% of Pakistan’s exports to UK are now subject to zero duty. And as mentioned above, new product lines have been added to our export basket. Major fashion retail outlets have been approached to establish their sourcing houses in Pakistan and start sourcing from there. This has resulted in increasing exports of value-added products from Pakistan to the UK. We have facilitated investment from Adam Linens and Inox London Limited in M-3 Industrial Estate.
As the UK opens after the Pandemic, the Mission will ensure that Pakistani companies continue to have a robust presence in international trade exhibitions held here, the growth momentum, particularly in the high value-added export segment is maintained, new British buyers are attracted, and Pakistani products and services achieve greater traction in the UK markets.
Q) The UK, which is hub of politics around the world, here to highlight the soft image of Pakistan, what should Pakistani journalist do and what can High Commission do to help them in this regard?
A) The UK is a great country with rich culture and history. That’s why it is a place of global interest and focus. The UK receives about 39 million tourists annually. Through the platforms that the UK offers, there is a great scope for promoting our rich heritage and our comparative strengths including trade and connectivity, market size, tourism, and the immense human resource potential.
As things are opening after Covid restrictions, we have already started our socio-cultural and economic activities. This is Diamond Jubilee year of Pakistan coinciding with 75 years of establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and the UK. To celebrate it and showcase the rich diversity of Pakistan and the legacy of Pakistan-UK friendship in a befitting manner, we are chalking out a year-long calendar of events. We hope to capitalize on this opportunity to promote the true image of Pakistan.
Recently, the High Commission sponsored and launched a photography book titled “Karakoram: Ice Mountains of Pakistan”, by a renowned British photographer. This book brings forth the awe-inspiring beauty of Pakistan’s magnificent mountains in a uniquely different light.
Our youth is our strength. Therefore, we are bringing Pakistani students and youth in the UK under one umbrella that can act as a platform to forge academic and professional linkages and enable Pakistani students help one another in excelling in their chosen fields.
The Pakistani journalists in the UK are already doing great service to the country as well to the community. Besides continuing to report objectively and honestly, I would just urge them to project positive things of Pakistan. The High Commission is always there to support their endeavours.
Q) Are you satisfied with the overall performance of our Aims Magazine? What are your suggestions for future improvement?
“Aims” Magazine is an excellent endeavour, to put across Pakistan’s stance on various international issues, we need such publications. I congratulate you and your team on bringing out such a quality magazine. As far as suggestions are concerned, I would like to see more coverage of investment and tourism opportunities in Paki

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