Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan 221as
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan attends a session of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in June. Image Credit: Alexei Druzhinin/AP

Washington, D.C.: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who begins a three-day visit to the United States of America on Sunday, is scheduled to address a record gathering of members of the Pakistani community at a stadium in downtown Washington, D.C.

UPDATE: Up to 30,000 turn up in largest gathering of Pakistani-Americans to welcome PM Imran Khan

An estimated 30,000 people gathered at Imran Khan’s community meeting with overseas Pakistanis in Washington DC. The stadium has 20,000 official seating capacity, there were thousands more seated in playing arena. Image Credit: Twitter

The prime minister will address members of the Pakistani community at the Capital One Arena, which has a seating capacity of 20,000 persons.

Pakistan FM in America
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and other officials visit the Capital One Arena to oversee arrangements for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s address. "This is a moment they (Pakistanis in the US) have long waited for," he tweeted. Image Credit: Twitter

Most of the seats have been booked already, with more people still registering to attend the event, officials said.

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

The address is scheduled at around 4pm local time Sunday (12am Monday).

“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 said. He said he hoped that this would be the biggest gathering in the history of Pakistani activities held in America.

Around a 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 $3.13 billion indicating significant growth over $2.7 billion of the past year.

Qureshi said during his visit to the US the prime minister would carry a message of a dignified Pakistan and, instead of seeking aid, would call for more trade.

Imran is coming to present the case for Pakistan, Qureshi said.

Pakistan-US trade reached $6.62 billion (Dh24.3 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, jewellery and plastics.

But the major focus is on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s meeting with President Trump at the White House on July 22, who has invited him after praising Pakistan’s cooperation.

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.