Rehan Allahwala suggests making visa, citizenship processes easier since ‘Turkey has occupied us mentally’.
Easy travel processes, including liberal visa regimes with faster communication modes, will further push forward relations between Pakistan and Turkey, according to a Pakistani entrepreneur and social activist.
“The governments of Turkey and Pakistan should make the process of visa extremely easy,” said Rehan Allahwala, co-founder of Super Technologies Inc, well-known for his work on Facebook and other social media platforms.
“So, we can go online and just get the visa very quickly. And that’s something which needs to be worked on,” he told Anadolu Agency at the Pakistan Tech Summit held in Istanbul last week.
“I know that it’s very challenging work. But it’s definitely possible,” he said about making the visa regime easier for people of the two countries.
Allahwala, who started his first company at 13, suggested Turkish authorities should collaborate with Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) on the visa process.
“NADRA has the database of all Pakistani citizens and Turkish authorities can engage with them and make the visa process easier,” he said, adding that it currently takes at least two weeks to get a visa.
More than 200 entrepreneurs, technology experts and sector leaders from Pakistan were on a five-day tour of Turkey where they met their Turkish counterparts at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University and visited other touristic cities.
“There is so much demand from Pakistani people to come to Turkey, but the visa and the transportation cost becomes a challenge,” he said.
– Travel from Pakistan to Turkey by car
The tech guru said the two governments should also facilitate ground travel between the countries.
“I would like to be allowed to go from Turkey to Pakistan by car. Right now, we don’t have that opportunity because it requires special paperwork and that costs two times the price of the car,” he said.
“I dream that we have 20 buses a day coming from Pakistan to Turkey, just like I can go from Antalya to Istanbul, I can go from Karachi to Istanbul. Why not?” asked Allahwala, who has completed 150 projects in five different countries.
Praising Turkey’s Pegasus Airlines for starting direct flights to Pakistan’s financial capital of Karachi, he said: “I would like them to increase the number of flights because the traffic is huge. And maybe such practices can help with the visa process also, and more tourists should be attracted.”
To cement relations, the social activist said, the Pakistani government should “recognize the people who are acquiring citizenship in Turkey to allow them to have dual nationality.”
But he said more larger Turkish companies should come and partner or start their venture in Pakistan.
Lauding Turkey’s progress in the tourism sector, Allahwala said Pakistan has only 1,400 hotels.
“Turkey has huge experience in tourism, so Turkish hotel companies can come to invest and start hotels or do partnerships with the local hotel companies, or booking companies as Pakistan is a phenomenal space for them,” he said.
“I know a lot of Pakistanis who want to come and live in Turkey because of Ertugrul Ghazi drama series and Osman Gazi and all the other dramas,” said Allahwala. “Turkish people have occupied us mentally, just like Hollywood occupied us before.”
The Turkish production of Ertugrul Ghazi earned heroic status in Pakistan after the country’s state television aired it in Urdu language.
Within days of the first broadcast, the fan following the series and its actors surged, especially lead actor Engin Altan Duzyatan.
Often described as a “Turkish Game of Thrones,” the series tells the story before the establishment of the Ottoman Empire in the 13th century Anatolia. It illustrates the struggle of Ertugrul Ghazi, the father of the empire’s first leader.
It has millions of subscribers on its Urdu YouTube channel.
“People are going to America but now they want to come and flock to Turkey,” he said. “I asked my staff if I were to sponsor a trip, where would they like to go: Dubai or Turkey? Everyone responded, ‘Turkey.’ So, yeah, everybody wants to come here.”
Although “language barrier” is a challenge, he said, it could be bypassed as “technology is enabling a lot of weird things to happen.”
The tech guru emphasized that the governments of Pakistan and Turkey should “focus on getting a free trade agreement done so that there is more free flow.”
– ‘Pakistan Tech Summit explored Turkish environment’
Allahwala said the Pakistan Tech Summit was “to encourage 200-plus companies and people from Pakistan to come and explore Turkey together.”
“It was to create more trust among the companies themselves and to see the opportunity of collaboration between themselves and the Turkish companies,” he said.
“It is more of a retreat – to retreat away from our own offices, our own mindset, and come and see and learn from Turkish environment,” he said.
The participants got a chance to explore “what can be done in Turkey, or find partners to come and work within Turkey,” he stated.
“You never know where business comes from.”
He said Pakistan’s digital footprints were growing “phenomenally.”
“In the last 12 months, the population of telephony smartphones rose to 100 million from 50 million. That’s phenomenal growth,” he said. “The growth which happens in 10 years has been in one year only … because of COVID-19.”