Going Global

Building Bridges and Strengthening Ties

Mr. Murat Mustafa Onart, Turkish Consul General, Karachi

A conversation on tourism, media and friendship with Mr. Murat Mustafa Onart, Turkish Consul General, Karachi

First impression is the last impression they say and while on a visit ‘This Fortnight in Pakistan’s’ first impression of Turkey and Turkish people can be coined in two words; friendly and welcoming. Although when it came to interviewing a diplomat we had preconceived notions about diplomats being the solemn kind! However in this regard the outgoing Turkish Consul General, Karachi Mr. Murat Mustafa Onart, proved us otherwise. Down to earth and highly respectable his interview was a breeze with a dash of seriousness attached to it.  

Teşekkürler Bayım (Thank you Sir), Çok takdir (Much appreciated).

Six years and about to bid farewell so how has your journey been?

 From the very first day it has been a happy journey. There has been no difficulty adjusting due to the respect and acknowledgement that I got here. I choose to come to Karachi because as you know Turkey has very few friendly countries around the world. I wanted to work in a friendly and hospitable country and Pakistan was my first choice. Normally it is a two year posting but I requested to stay for four years. My ministry was kind enough to let me stay. Later for professional reasons I was asked to stay for another two years. The limit is six years but now I have to go back to Turkey soon. What can I say about Pakistan especially Karachi ‘I don’t want to go back’! I am very comfortable and happy here.

With the growing Pak/Turk friendship and our bilateral relations strengthening day by day in your opinion what more can be done on this level?

On the political and military level we have very good relations. Our respective PM’s and ministers have been visiting each other often including the city of Karachi. We have a high consul for cooperation which meets regularly. On the education front at the time of RCD (Regional Cooperation for Development) many scholarships were available. We had lots of Pakistani students going for engineering degree. A student who studied in Turkey in the 60s today is building a new consulate. There was a cut for many years but fortunately for the last 5/6 years the interest has peaked up again and the ministry of Turkey is favouring Pakistani students. Many Turkish universities that offer high level education are very happy with Pakistani students because of their English skills which in turn bring a lot to the classroom. The only thing that is lagging behind is the economic relations. Common trade is only half a billion dollars hence to increase bilateral trade we want to sign a treaty of agreement between Turkey and Pakistan. Basically we have very close relations and it is going very well. 

With the Turkish dramas a rage in Pakistan how do you feel about the positive response to the Turkish content despite a language barrier?

We do not feel that there is any language barrier really. The dramas are being dubbed in Urdu. I have heard that the dubbing is very good. However this exchange is private. Not State sponsored. Private channels are buying them from the open market. I think the private channels here were impressed by the success of Turkish dramas in the Middle East especially in Dubai. Since lots of Pakistanis reside there hence they forwarded the dramas to Pakistan. Our drams are of course good even though at times they do not reflect the stories perfectly nevertheless it has raised the interest of people in Turkish stories. Now even Turkish people have started reading their stories more.

Do you foresee mutual collaborations in media productions between Pakistan and Turkey?

There are a lot of media houses in Pakistan who want to organize events and programmes in Turkey; Istanbul being the most preferred city. There have been instances like the morning show ‘Sunrise from Istanbul’ then Pakistani movies are being shot in Turkey. Ever since I have been here 4/5 movies have been shot in my country. InshAllah my Ambassador Mr. Sadık Babür Girgin is also working towards Turkish media getting access to shooting in Pakistan. Our state television TRT along with the Ambassador is working on enhancing cooperation between TRT and your state run channel PTV.

The Turkish Tourism Industry is a success story and of late it has become THE destination for not only Pakistanis in Pakistan but Pakistanis living overseas as well. How does Turkish tourism purpose to attract more Pakistani tourists?

As you said it is a wonderful place for Pakistanis to visit because the amount of respect we give each other is what makes it a place to be. Our people too have a friendly approach towards tourists hence they feel comfortable. To enhance tourism firstly we have increased the number of connections via Turkish Airlines. We now have 21 flights a week so that sums up to one flight every day from Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore. Also the airplanes are getting bigger and bigger. We now have airbuses hence the flight is more comfortable along with the increase in connections has made Turkey accessible. Secondly our visa policy is easy to handle. Before people were lining here on the consulate road with no shade and had to come early to make a line. Ever since Gerry’s has taken over it has become a comfortable premises with AC rooms. We consider the collaboration on visa process with Gerry’s a success. They have been very cooperative and are enhancing the service more and more.

As a Consul General how does the consulate hope to work for more people-to-people contact and mutual understanding between the two countries in the future?

This is the 70th year of the establishment of Diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Turkey. We have a strong cultural connection. In this regard we will be holding a lot of cultural events and receptions till the beginning of 2018.  Earlier the Dervish dancers came to perform in Islamabad and Lahore. Continuing with the celebrations we will bring Turkish artists who work in traditional art form; Ottoman art to calligraphy. Art certainly brings people closer and through that we aim to do exactly that; bringing the two nations closer.

Uzma Mazhar & Sara Ashraf

Editor & Assistant Editor

This Fortnight in Pakistan