I want to take bilateral trade to the height of political ties - Adel Elarbi - Ambassador of Tunisia

Founder Editor Tazeen Akhtar..

Interview-Tazeen Akhtar -Pics, Shahid Raju

Tunisia (most commonly known in Pakistan as Tunis) is Arab Republic, situated on a very significant strategic location of Mediterranean in North Africa. In between Libya and Algiers and near to Morocco. In the North Europe (Italy) is not far from Tunisia.  Middle East also feels attached to Tunisia. This country enjoys many feathers in her cap that make her prominent among the community of nations. Here we can refer to two of them as the biggest.

First from history is the example of Ibn e Khaldūn, who is known and respected by all Pakistanis. He was Arab Muslim historiographer and historian, regarded to be among the founding fathers of modern sociology, historiography, demography, and economics.  (Born: May 27, 1332, Tunis, Tunisia -Died: March 19, 1406, Cairo, Egypt)He is best known for his book, the Muqaddimah. (Literally the "Introduction", known as the Prolegomena in Greek). The book influenced 17th-century Ottoman historians who used the theories in the book to analyze the growth and decline of the Ottoman Empire. 19th-century European scholars also acknowledged the significance of the book and considered Ibn e Khaldun as one of the greatest philosophers of the Middle Ages. (Wikipedia)

Second pride of Tunisia is the collective wisdom of this nation that proved itself only a few months back when Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet was awarded with the prestigious 2015 Peace Nobel Prize. Quartet leaders saved their country when it was on the brink of civil war. They came together in the summer of 2013 when Tunisia was at a crossroads between a nascent democracy and violence, following political assassinations and widespread social unrest to establish an alternative, peaceful political process. The quartet drew up a roadmap that succeeded to steer Tunisia away from the path to conflict towards the path to political compromise.

Tunisia achieved independence from France on March 20, 1956 thanks to the leadership of Habib Bourguiba as well as of many other great thinkers and politicians who positively affected the political history of this North African country. Pakistan strongly stood with Tunisia people for their cause of freedom and independence at all forums including UNO. This nation is known of its great  and visionary people.

 Our close friend, H.E Mr. Adel Elarbi represents Tunisia to Pakistan as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. “Pakistan in the World” arranged an interview with him for our reader’s interest and information.

Q: What was your first impression when you were informed about your posting in Pakistan? Media mostly in West world portray Pakistan as a hard country to live in.

*Adel Elarbi - It was a surprise for me, since before that I served for 5 years in Canada and same in the Netherlands. That is why; I was not expecting appointment in some Asian country. But my Minister at that time told me “You are very lucky, it would be a new and great experience for you. You can learn a lot from Pakistan. Go there and you would feel a change in yourself. Pakistan is a big and a rich country with respect to diplomatic relations and traditions."

These words soothed me and I felt pleasure to assume responsibilities in Pakistan. Media portrays, most often, only one side of the countries' faces, and shows reality only that suits the media. The whole picture is not usually shown to the audience. But I did not rely on media. I asked my predecessor about Pakistan and he apprised me of many good things. He told me that I can meet with many important personalities here. Thus I was very happy to serve in Pakistan.

Q; And what you have observed and experienced after assuming responsibilities here?

*Adel Elarbi - Now I am in Islamabad for one year and two months. No doubt it is pleasant experience, I learned a lot in a very short time. It is easy to meet and communicate with the officials and businessmen. Easy communication makes your work easy. Good relations can be developed that make the job fruitful and productive.

Q; At the same time it is difficult job to perform as diplomat in a country that is centric to many world level activities and problems of terrorism etc?

*Adel Elarbi - Yes, there are challenges but nowadays they are everywhere. I take it as rich post. Pakistan is a very big country where diplomacy, meeting with people and defending your countries' interests is a challenging job. Whatever is going on in this region of the world, international interactions, challenges, stormy situation, I see it as a positive view that it is not a difficult post but it is a rich post.

Q; Pakistan opened embassy in Tunisia in mid 50s just after independence of Tunisia but here was no embassy in Islamabad until mid 80s. Diplomatic Relations seem to be at low profile if we see this difference. What was the reason actually?

*Adel Elarbi - Mutual relations had been very cordial and brotherly through the history. Pakistan supported our cause for independence. We are proud of that and we will never forget this historical support and role of Pakistan. Tunisia was a new country with limited resources at and after the time of independence. For that reason, we could not financially open our embassy in all world capitals. But we established relations soon after our independence. Opening of Pakistani embassy in Tunisia depicts our relations. We covered these relations from our embassy in Tehran. We cannot say that our relations remained slow for two decades. Actually our state was not in position to open full fledged embassy in Islamabad before mid 80s only because of our economic limitations.

Q; We have a rich history of standing with each other through thick and thin. Trade and Economic cooperation is not at that height what we see in our political or diplomatic relations. What is your opinion?

*Adel Elarbi - Both countries enjoy very warm and close political relations. I want to take business and trade relations to the height that we have in political relations. There is a reason behind the situation that you have raised in your question.

Pakistan is situated amongst many big and important countries. I guess that Pakistan is busy with its immediate environment. Tunisia has Europe, Africa and Middle East. Tunisia is busy there too. I think that our neighborhood could make our priorities. My target is to make Pakistan as our priority so that Tunisian investors come here. Many Pakistanis do not know enough about Tunisia. When I called on H.E. President Mamnoon Hussein, he told me that promoting cultural cooperation in necessary. I strongly agree with that because if we discover our cultures, our traditions, we can see that we are not much different to each other and business become easier. Tourists and Traders can meet and spread this reality that there are many common things between Tunisia and Pakistan. I have visited some chambers of commerce. I briefed them about facilities and privileges for trade in Tunisia. Both countries can arrange exchange of trade delegations to enhance economic cooperation.

Q; Is language a barrier to interaction of our people and businessmen community?

*Adel Elarbi - Language is not a barrier. Our first language is Arabic and second is French but many of our businessmen can speak English or have English translators for Asian people. If there is a real will nobody can stop you.

Q; Which cities you have visited so far? What potential you have seen there?

*Adel Elarbi - I have visited Karachi, Sahiwal, Taxila and Murree so far. I shall also visit Lahore, Sialkot, Multan, Hayderabad and other important cities in coming days. Karachi is a business city, Lahore historical and cultural city, Islamabad is a political center point. Karachi being port city is the gateway to the world. I would certainly like to visit all important cities of Pakistan to increase cooperation in all possible sectors.

Q; How Pakistanis can reach Tunisia easily?

*Adel Elarbi - Reach to Tunisia is not difficult for Pakistanis. Direct flights are available from Dubai, Istanbul, Doha and Jeddah. Pakistanis can also take direct flights to Tunis from all Capitals of Europe.

Q; Tunisia is a member of Saudi Alliance against terrorism. What expectations we can attach to this move for elimination of this threat to peace of the world?

*Adel Elarbi - Terrorism has affected all countries. Tunisian approach on terrorism is that it is International Phenomenon. Therefore it seeks International Solution. No country alone can overcome this menace. Every country needs support and cooperation of the other country. This alliance can, at least, express the will that we are united against terrorism. And we are hopeful that this alliance will succeed. Furthermore, the Tunisian approach has not only a security dimension it is a global approach since we believe that this phenomenon could be countered also by finding economic, social and culture solutions for our youth by giving them confidence and hope in the future to eradicate the reasons and the roots of extremist ideology.  In this context, I can say that we can also learn a lot from Pakistani experience of fight against terrorism.

Q; Many countries including Pakistan are demanding reforms or expansion in UN Security Council. Some emerging economic powers like Brazil, Germany, and Japan are aspirants of getting Permanent Status. They say that this world is totally different from that was after Second World War. What Tunisia thinks about it?

*Adel Elarbi - Yes it is true that nowadays world is different from the world of 1945. Reforms in U.N are need of the hour. Expansion of Security Council is imperative in the light of new realities of the world.

Q; Nobel Peace Award is no doubt a big achievement for Tunisia. Would you like to say something about moving forward with the goals set by the National Dialogue Quartet?

*Adel Elarbi - National Dialogue Quartet won Nobel Peace Prize amongst 270 contesters including world known and respected leaders like Angela Merkel and The Pope. Tunisian nation's wealth is their brain. They brought the revolution thanks to their wisdom and dialogue. There was only one party before the revolution. National Dialogue Quartet paved the way for a peaceful transition. They held meetings on national level so that the nation can be saved from a bad future. The result was the withdrawn of the then political government and the appointment of a new technocrat government for a transitional period of time that led towards political balance and stability. Now we have a progressive Constitution, a young Democracy, Human Rights, and Social Life. Civil Society is very strong. After the revolution many new political parties came into being. Every party has its own agenda for the nation. Every party has the right to maintain a manifesto to convince the voter. Democracy is new and delicate but it would certainly become strong by the support of our nation and by the help of our brotherly and friendly countries.

Q; Tunisia people remained quiet organized and intact during a very difficult time. They decorated the term “Arab Spring” with original meanings and in true sense. After a peaceful change and well arranged transition, real spring of democracy is taking its roots. What lesson we Pakistanis can learn you’re your revolution?

*Adel Elarbi - We never pretended to give lessons to other countries, oppositely we usually learned from other nations. What happened in Tunisia was a Tunisian solution. Every country has its specificity and its political, economic and social reality. We respect all these experiences we don’t interfere in the interior affairs of other countries.  Pakistanis people are very brave and patriots and they are doing their best to make their country a prosper one in the region and in the world. Pakistan is a great country. Its people are proud of their homeland. They can make Pakistan the best with their hard work, and by defending their interests. I can say that one day more people from Europe, America and the rest of the world will come to Pakistan to do business and enjoy its richness, prosperity and beauty.  But to achieve this goal, Pakistani nation, like Tunisian nation, will have to give more tangible results that the world can clearly see and by finding the appropriate way to show that to the world.

Q; How do you see CPEC and its impacts on Pakistan?

*Adel Elarbi - Economic Corridor (CPEC) is termed as a strategic project for Pakistan. It is very important. It will bring not only development and prosperity but it will also produce betterment in security and social life of Pakistanis. Great philosopher of Tunisia says “Justice in necessary for prosperity”. Justice with society is to bring prosperity for the society. Tunisia is learning a lot from the experience of Pakistan regarding CPEC. We also need to build connectivity infrastructure in remote areas of our country.

Q; What do you think about Pakistani culture?

*Adel Elarbi - I’m very attracted and impressed by Pakistani culture that’s why learning Urdu is included in my project. I shall try my best to learn this language to understand more your culture and to be closer to Pakistani people. For promotion of languages and culture dialogue, Tunisian embassy is planning to arrange exhibitions of calligraphy in major cities of Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. There are many common words in Arabic and Urdu as we have many commonalities between Tunisia and Pakistan. End


Country in North Africa

On the Mediterranean Sea, Tunisia is a North African country whose culture dates to antiquity. In the capital, Tunis, the palatial Bardo Museum presents archaeological exhibits from Roman mosaics to Islamic art. The city’s medina quarter encompasses the massive Al-Zaytuna Mosque and a thriving ancient souk. To the east, the ancient Carthage site features the Antonine baths and other ruins, plus artifacts at the Carthage National Museum.


Dialing code: +216

ISO code: TUN

Currency: Tunisian dinar

Population: 10.89 million (2013) World Bank

Official language: Arabic

Interview published in print edition on 1st March 2016