Ashgabat, 21 August 2017 (nCa) — The partnership between Turkmenistan and Pakistan is composed of multiple layers of history, commonalties, culture, traditions, and spirituality. These layers are ancient and modern, they have withstood the tests of time, and they are charged with huge potential for a shared future.
The wide spectrum of partnership is built of the obvious and not-so-obvious possibilities.
The obvious aspects are TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project), the CASA-1000 and TUTAP electricity transmission routes, the planned rail and road connections, the expected fiber optics link, and Lapis Lazuli, Central Asia-Middle East and other transport and transit corridors, and the Gawadar Port of Pakistan that is available for all the friends, with Turkmenistan among the preferred partners.
These are obvious and very promising options. Taken together, they can rewrite the destiny of the entire region.
However, there is also the need to look at what lies beyond the obvious.
The landscape beyond the obvious is vast and dazzling. Let’s look at some of the possibilities that are easily in reach; the low hanging fruit.
A strong component of this side of partnership is the Turkmen Diaspora in Pakistan. This can be compared to a vignette screen. At one end are the Turkmens who have retained their original identity and continue to exist as Turkmens even though they hold Pakistani citizenship. There are more than three million people in Pakistan who can be distinctly identified as the Turkmens. They have strong presence in a number of businesses, first of all in hand-knotted carpets. For example, the Rafiq Centre in Karachi, which is one of the largest markets of handmade carpets, is almost entirely owned and run by the Turkmens.
On the other end of the vignette screen are those Turkmens who have merged with the general population and it is only the ancestral memory that keeps them aware of the fact that they are Turkmens and/or closely connected to the Turkmens. In this category, Obaidullah Baig is an example. He was one of the first TV hosts in Pakistan, a prominent scholar, writer and columnist. One of his last major works was a TV documentary about Turkmenistan for which he made three visits to Turkmenistan.
These two ends of the vignette screen are far apart and in between there are millions of people who, to various degrees, can be described as Turkmen.
Mirza Klych Beg, the author of Chachnama, was Turkmen and major roads in two cities of Pakistan are named after him.
PNS Tughril, a modern ship in the Pakistan Navy, is named after Tughril Beg, the Seljuk Emperor.
The design of the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, is remarkably similar to the design of the mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar in Merv.
Among the politically strong families in Pakistan, the Makhdums of Hala, the Qurshis of Multan, the Arbabs are all connected to the Turkmen roots.
Anyone in Pakistan with the last name Pasha is quite certainly a Turkmen.
What is the economic potential of this huge base of common human resource?
An immediate opportunity that can be opened right away is the joint marketing of the handmade carpets and rugs.
Turkmenistan is home of the most popular carpet designs in the world. The Turkmen Diaspora in Pakistan is very strong in carpet marketing. Some of the Pakistani Turkmens export as much as 40000 square meters of handmade carpet every year.
If the Turkmens of Pakistan and Afghanistan can join hands with Turkmenistan in marketing, they can capture the overwhelming share of the world markets.
Another possibility is in leather garments and products. Turkmenistan is a strong source of sheepskin, which can be supplied in pickled or wetblue form, and Pakistan is among the world leaders in leather processing and manufacturing. The partnership between the two will make them a winning team.
Another aspect of the sturdy presence of Turkmens in Pakistan is the decorative art in construction.
Most of the architectural wonders in Multan city of Pakistan were built by the Turkmen artisans and engineers who were displaced after the fall of the Khwarezm Shah dynasty, whose seat of power was in the present-day Turkmenistan. Their descendents have still retained the art of Pichikari and Kashikari tiles. With joint ventures, these tiles can be mass produced for export to the global markets.
Let’s look further and see what else is there in beyond-the-obvious areas of partnership.
Pakistan is a regional leader in medium-tech technologies such as the manufacturing of fans, irons, washing machines, room coolers, bicycles, etc.
On the other hand, Turkmenistan has nearly 100% literacy rate. By brining the technology and know-how from Pakistan, it is possible to make Turkmenistan the hub of medium-tech products, capturing the markets that are accessible through the emerging corridors.
A big advantage of the medium-tech industries is that they are generally labour intensive and therefore can provide employment to a large number of people.
Even though science, technology and research are always on the agenda for partnership, there are areas here that have remained beyond-the-obvious.
For instance, the per-hectare yield of Pakistani wheat is among the best in the world – more than 500 kg of grain from one ton of crop.
Several varieties of rice developed by the rice research institute of Pakistan are immune to weather and other stress factors. They can be shared with Turkmenistan.
Pakistan is the fourth largest producer of cotton in the world and partnership between Turkmenistan and Pakistan in selected areas of cotton cultivation can be beneficial for both.
Simultaneously, Pakistan can benefit from the techniques of Turkmenistan in growing coloured cotton.
These are just a few of the possibilities that exist for very beneficial partnership between Turkmenistan and Pakistan. There is the need to open a permanent window to what lies beyond-the-obvious. /// nCa