“As a young political leader, I strongly feel that the world needs to have a fresh look at Pakistan, away from its stereotypical image,” Bilawal told The Strait Times before his maiden trip to Singapore.
Pakistan’s top diplomat told the Singapore-based publication that there are “many opportunities in Pakistan awaiting the world”. However, he said that the first step for making use of those opportunities is to lift the travel advisories against Pakistan.“I strongly feel that the world needs to look at us more objectively, as a promising emerging market,” said the Bilawal. He highlighted Pakistan’s young population and the country’s fastest-growing middle class.One of the industries that were mentioned by the foreign minister was the Pakistani e-commerce market. He told the publication that based on data from German research firm Statista, the country’s e-commerce market is projected to generate US$7.67 billion in revenue in 2022.Along with this, he highlighted that Pakistan has multiple freelancers who are providing services in IT, telecom, e-commerce, data analytics, financial services, music, and health.“Singapore and other ASEAN countries outsource many IT-related activities and financial services and can benefit immensely from our young talent.”On the visit, Pakistan’s top diplomat stressed that ties with ASEAN countries are a priority for Islamabad. He added that Islamabad is seeking to upgrade its partnership with the regional bloc into a full dialogue partnership.“Some recent initiatives of ASEAN are of great interest to Pakistan which we believe are bound to unlock immense trade and investment opportunities for emerging economies including Pakistan. We believe our start-up and fintech ecosystem can contribute a great deal by connecting with South-east Asia,” said Bilawal.The foreign minister told the Singapore publication that in the context of ASEAN, Pakistan places great importance on its relations with Singapore.He highlighted that Pakistan was among the first countries to recognise Singapore after independence, and how the Pakistani expatriates have contributed to the country’s development in its early years.Bilawal pointed out how the two nations have exchanged high-level visits in the past, including former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s visits to Pakistan in 1988 and 1992, and former premier Benazir Bhutto’s visit in 1995.“Over time, we lost the momentum in our bilateral relations,” said Bilawal, adding that he was coming to Singapore “to revive that momentum and intensify our bilateral exchanges. Pakistan is keen to strengthen this relationship in all dimensions”.Meeting with President HalimahDuring his visit, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called on President Halimah Yacob today."In the meeting, enhanced engagement and mutually beneficial cooperation were discussed while the foreign minister shared Pakistan's desire to intensify cooperation with ASEAN," the Foreign Office said in a statement.Earlier, Singaporean FM Dr Vivian Balakrishnan hosted Bilawal Bhutto over breakfast where matters of mutual interest were discussed between the two leaders.