Biggest Pakistani gathering awaits Prime Minister address at Washington stadium

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan, who will kick start his three-day visit to the United States of America, is scheduled to address a record-setting gathering of the Pakistani community at a stadium in the downtown of the Washington DC.

The prime minister will address the Pakistani community at Capital One Arena with a seating capacity of above 20,000 persons most of which had been booked already with more people still registering themselves to attend the event.

The prime minister’s community address is distinctive in the way as previously, the visiting Pakistani leaders used to address the Pakistani expatriates in the community halls or closed door rooms at hotels.

The address is scheduled at around 1600 hours of local time.

“The atmosphere we are witnessing this time was never seen in the past. The Pakistani community, the American Pakistanis are yearning to see and listen to Imran Khan and know the concept of Naya Pakistan and what message he has brought along to America,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told media at Capital One Arena where he arrived to review the arrangements.

He said the community was extremely excited over the activity as summit level engagement was being held after a hiatus of five years.

“You have seen this arena. There is seating capacity of around 20,200. So far, above 19,000 people have registered themselves and some time is yet remaining for the event,” he said on Friday night terming the response as encouraging.

“There is a unique excitement. There is an ambience of gala,” he remarked. He hoped that this would be the biggest gathering in the history of Pakistani activities held in America.

Around one million Pakistani-Americans reside in the US which has also been a major source of remittances for Pakistan. During fiscal year 2019, remittances from the US stood at US $ 3.13 billion indicating significant growth over US $ 2.7 billion of the past year.        

According to the Eventbrite, the website where the people are registering for the event, said the event would mark the playing of Pakistan’s national anthem, along with celebratory songs to be played throughout the event to celebrate Pakistan and the prime minister.

Senator Faisal Javed, who also arrived at the venue and hopefully would moderate the event too, told media that a ‘surprise package’ documentary of around 15-minutes duration would also be played in the event encompassing the life and struggle of Imran Khan.

He said Imran Khan had a very old association with the overseas Pakistanis as they had been supporting Shaukat Khanum Hospital as well as the country through their remittances. To a question, he said the friends of Imran Khan and expatriates were sponsoring the event as they had been doing for his gatherings in Pakistan. Regarding the expected crowd, he said the Arena would stand filled to its capacity; however the management would install screens outside the venue to facilitate the people outside.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi said during his visit to the US, the prime minister would carry a message of dignified Pakistan and instead of seeking aid but trade, he was coming to contest the case of Pakistan.

Pakistan-US trade had reached US $ 6.627 billion in 2018-19 – an all-time high. Pakistan’s major exports to the US included textiles and apparel, leather goods, surgical instruments, lamps, carpets, jewelry and plastics.

It would be Prime Minister Imran Khan’s meeting with President Trump at White House on July 22, who has invited him after praising Pakistan’s cooperation, that would receive major attention.

There will be two sessions at the White House. President Trump will also host the prime minister and his delegation on a luncheon.

Besides Donald Trump, the prime minister would also interact with top American lawmakers including Speaker of the House of Representatives and members of Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistan would make a pitch for moving the ties away from 18-year long Afghan war to a place where the two sides focus on augmenting cooperation in wide-ranging mutually beneficial areas.

“We want a reset in the relationship,” he explained to members of the media on Friday, while noting that the equation has moved from coercion to cooperation and from isolation to invitation.

The prime minister would speak to members of US Pakistan Business Council as well as encourage Pakistani-Americans to engage in business in Pakistan, where his government is reforming various sectors of the economy to make doing business easy.

According to Foreign Office, during his various engagements in Washington, the prime minister will outline his vision of “Naya Pakistan” and underscore the importance Pakistan attaches to a broader and multi-faceted relationship with the United States.