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Uzbekistan-Pakistan Direct Air-Links

Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

The Heart of Central Asia, UZBEKISTAN will resume direct flights operation from Lahore, Pakistan to Tashkent from April 5, 2017. Uzbekistan Airways the best in the Central Asian Regime will launch two flights a week from Lahore to Tashkent from April 5, 2017. Flights would operate on every Wednesday and Friday from April 5, 2017. The number of flights can be increased in the future. Previously, Uzbekistan Airways suspended flight operations from Pakistan due to less load issue in 2013 but now a plan has been finalized out to keep smooth operation intact in future.

Uzbek Embassy in Islamabad under the supervision of his Ambassador H.E. Furqat SIDIQOV has been working tirelessly to resume fights for the last two years. He worked very hard to achieve the UNREALIZED DREAM OF GREATER CONNECTIVITY via Direct Air-Links between the countries. He termed direct air-links is must for enhancing government-to-government, business-to-business and the last but not the least, people-to-people contacts between the brotherly countries. He believes that direct flights would widen horizon of bilateral relations and ultimately volumes of bilateral trade, tourism, investments, joint ventures, educational and cultural cooperation would also be on the rise.

Resumption of direct flights between the two countries would have many socio-economic multiplier effects for both. It would reduce time span. It would reduce budgetary allocations and ultimately increase connectivity.

It is indeed a Giant Step towards greater regional connectivity between the two countries because no other Central Asian Country has direct access/flight with Pakistan and passengers have to travel via UAE, Qatar or Turkey to reach in these countries.

Uzbekistan Airways has planned to enhance tourism activities between the both countries and both the countries would enhance tourism visa quota so tourism between the two friendly countries could be increased in year 2017.

Uzbekistan Airways suspended its flight operation to Lahore almost four year ago and Pakistan lost its last connection to Central Asia. However during 2016 a private company of Tajikistan started two flights a week on May 6, 2016 which subsequently got closed.

It may be mentioned that Pakistan was first South Asian country that initiated flights to Tashkent after Uzbekistan got independence from former Soviet Union in early 90s. Pakistan government has already shifted its attention to Central Asia since government of Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif came, therefore both countries should come forward for the further strengthening of bilateral relations having direct air-links.

Uzbekistan Airways flights will not only carry travelers to different destinations around the world from Pakistan, but will also give Pakistani businessmen opportunities to explore the market for their products in Central Asia. Uzbekistan was the favorite destination for Pakistan tourists, and it is hoped that tourism will improve between the two countries after resumption of direct flights between two countries starting from April 5, 2017.

Tashkent-Lahore flight is necessary for Pakistan and Uzbekistan. Resumption of flights between Tashkent and Lahore will open the door for both the countries to get the most benefit from each other’s expertise in the economic field, as well as energy, trade, and tourism, energy, agriculture, automobile and fashion industry.

Mutual visa restrictions between Uzbekistan and Pakistan was one the main reasons of Uzbekistan Airways suspension of flights operation badly had lowered the passenger volume.

Hopefully, after new Visa Policy announced by the government of Uzbekistan, there would be a drastic change in Visa Regime between the two countries in the future. Pakistani businessmen and students were among those affected by the suspension of the air link. Pakistani businessmen exported goods weighing 10 tonnes every week to the Central Asian states through the Lahore-Tashkent flights which was stopped due to suspension of the air-link.

Pakistani textile and handicraft goods have a good market in Uzbekistan. The transport expenditures had doubled since the direct air link with Tashkent was suspended. Afterwards, Pakistani businessmen had to get the cargo booked through connecting flights in the Gulf for the Central Asian states. A golden opportunity lost.

Travel agents had also suffered badly. They would now do good business by giving options to passengers traveling to Europe [via] Uzbekistan Airlines due to its cheap fares. Direct flights would also increase DIGITALIZATION CONNECTIVITY between the two countries. Pakistan has 18 per cent of Internet penetration and its geographical location, has a lot to offer to landlocked Central Asian states with crucial bandwidth access, which can turn Pakistan into regional connectivity hub for the entire region.

The Information Security Operations Centre (ISOC) at the INet Conference says that this is due to the fact that all other countries are landlocked and they depend heavily on Russia for their international Internet connectivity of any sort. Not to mention, these Central Asian countries have very low rate of international Internet connectivity which means Pakistan can tap a lucrative market and help Internet uptake in these landlocked markets. With its coastline and direct access to submarine cable landing points, low bandwidth cost and throughput, Pakistan sits in an enviable strategic position.

Pakistan has all the potentials in place to bridge the access to the international submarine cables and provide greater bandwidth to the region as a whole. Pakistan, therefore, can become a natural “Southern Route” to connect Central Asia to international networks.

The Republic of Uzbekistan is full of wonders and intellectuals. It is hub of tourism, natural beauty, human wisdom and above all multiculturalism. It has new become a rich country for tourists. It has unique location at the crossroads of the Silk Road which always connects people, minds, projects and civilizations. Tourism industry of Uzbekistan is also a developed and service oriented which always welcomes unlimited people with in and around the global to feel at home.

Uzbekistan is blessed with beautiful Samarkand, the jewel of CIS and the capital of the great state of Amir Temur focused a lot of attractions, which are famous today around the world. It has rich history, culture and traditions too. Its people are decent, lovely and courageous. They respect humanity, knowledge, wisdom, beauty and the last but not the least, cross culture and civilizations.

It is blessed with architectural ensemble Registan and Ulugbek observatory. It has a famous mausoleum of Amir Temur and Bibi Khanum Mosque has become city’s decoration. Its mausoleum was built by the order of Amir Temur, who is considered one of the finest examples of medieval architecture of the East.

Uzbekistan is also blessed with holy city of Bukhara. It is spiritual hub and center of peace, love and caring to all people. It has also historical monuments and places of worship. It is very famous and one of the hot destinations of devouted tourists visiting from South East Asia, Far East, CIS, MENA, and Africa. It has so many majestic minarets, mosques and madrassas, bazaars and shopping domes, havuz-pools and areas are witnessing 2500 year history of Bukhara. It is a city of life, joy, color, and brotherhood. It is the city which connects past with future.

Uzbekistan has also very famous cities like Khiva, Shakhrisabz and Termez. All these cities have ancient cities, cultures, civilizations and unique traditions. These have unique architectural masterpieces and have roused the admiration of ancestors and contemporaries.

Uzbekistan has introduced many innovative and modern concepts mainly ecotourism, geo-tourism, extreme, health and cultural areas, as well as mountain climbing, rafting and fishing for the international tourists. It categorized its tourism into regions i.e. in areas with few historic monuments develop ecotourism, geo-tourism, traveling off-road, in mountainous areas extreme tours. It has also implemented a project on restoration of objects of cultural heritage, construction and reconstruction of tourist facilities, the development of new routes of ancient monuments and picturesque places.

Most recently, the government of Uzbekistan has relaxed its visa regime and rolled back visa requirements for citizens of 27 countries seeks to explore Uzbekistan’s rich tourism potential. Citizens from 15 countries Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom will be able to travel to Uzbekistan visa-free for up to 30 days.

Moreover, a visa-free month will be available to citizens over the age of 55 from 12 other countries Belgium, China, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Poland, Portugal, the United States, and Vietnam. Relaxed Visa Regime between Uzbekistan and Pakistan is the need of the hour.

The Heart of Central Asia, UZBEKISTAN will reconnect via direct flights operation from Lahore the Heart of Pakistan to Tashkent from April 5, 2017. It will further strengthen bilateral relations in terms of greater socio-economic connectivity, investments and preferred cooperation in the diverse fields.

Uzbekistan’s Ambassador H.E. Furqat SIDIQOV in Pakistan must be appreciated for his hardworking to achieve this MILESTONE which to be utilized for greater commercial diplomacy, economic integration, and science and technology cooperation. Uzbekistan and Pakistan offer lots of untapped potentials which need to be tapped for the betterment of bilateral relations and trade also.

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