The Italian Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, Manlio Di Stefano, was in Pakistan for a two-day official state visit, as reported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
During his visit, Di Stefano met with Pakistani leaders, with whom he agreed to increase cooperation in migration, being Pakistan the second country of origin of illegal immigrants who disembark on Italy’s shores.
More in the specific, the Italian undersecretary met the Interior Minister of Pakistan, Ijaz Ahmad Shah. During the meeting, the two discussed illegal migration, on which they decided to plan concrete solutions to better cooperate in repatriations.
According to the Italian Ministry of Interior’s data, from Jan. 1, 2019, to Nov. 28, 2019, 10.707 migrants have disembarked in Italy, 1.180 of which come from Pakistan. If we compare the total amount with the number of migrants who disembarked in Italy at the same time frame of 2018, Italy experienced a 53.47% loss. Most of the migrants who arrived in Italy come from Tunisia (2.590), Pakistan (1.180), Ivory Coast (1.092), Algeria (982), Iraq (805), Bangladesh (520), Sudan (404), Iran (388), Guinea (248), and Nigeria (223). For what concerns unaccompanied children, from Jan. 1 to Nov. 28, 2019, 1.434 children disembarked in Italian shores.
In Pakistan, Di Stefano also met Islamabad’s minister for Economic Affairs, Muhammad Azahar, with whom the Italian undersecretary chaired the fourth session of the Mixed Economic Commission Italy-Pakistan. According to the data reported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2018 was a record year for Rome and Islamabad’s trade exchange, with a total value of 1.45 billion euros, signaling a 50% increase with respect to the 2014 total exchange amount.
On this, Di Stefano remarked Italy’s satisfaction with economic ties with Pakistan, adding that Rome aims at further increasing trade and cooperation with Islamabad.
Finally, the Italian Undersecretary also met the Pakistani minister for Human Rights, Shireen Mazari, and the minister of Commerce, Pervaiz Malik. Di Stefano also had the chance to meet the Pakistani president of the Board of Investment, Zubair Gilani, and the secretary-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, Sohail Mahmood.
Di Stefano’s official State visit comes amid tensions in Pakistan, where the government has been at the center of several protests on Oct. 31. Protesters were calling for the dismissal of the Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan, who has been criticized for the economic crisis and for electoral scams. Among the organizers of the protests, Fazl-ur-Rehman, the leader of the extreme-right religious party, Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).
On the other side of the spectrum, the incumbent PM, Imran Khan, who assumed office on Jul. 26, 2018, dismissed all the claims, adding that he was to be considered as a Pakistani society reformer while insisting on his Islamic beliefs.
During the 2018 elections, the vote count was characterized by a long delay, and for this reason, Khan’s adversaries accused the current PM of election fraud. International observers remarked they had noticed no severe irregularity, thus the pre-election climate made liberty concerns arise. More in the specific, it has been at that time reported that opponents were victims of several intimidations.