Pakistani cabinet minister Ahsan Iqbal is making a plea to the cricket-loving world on behalf of his proud cricketing country: come back and play Pakistan at home.

In recent years Pakistan have been forced to play home internationals overseas - mostly in the United Arab Emirates - due to security concerns.

"My message would be that Pakistan is now very safe for sports," he told the Herald this week.

"If India - with whom we have had a history of hostilities - can come and play in Pakistan, there is no reason why other countries should not come and play in Pakistan."


Mr Iqbal, the Minister for Planning and Development, has been in New Zealand at the invitation of Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, and he arrived in Auckland on the day Pakistan beat South Africa at Eden Park - an instant cure for jet-lag.

The team's performance was commendable, given the restrictions set by the International Cricket Council on playing international cricket in Pakistan.

"We give them full marks and we are very proud of our players who have put up such a good performance."

He hoped that a Pakistan win in the World Cup would make a strong statement to the rest of the world "to start playing cricket with Pakistan in Pakistan"

He said Pakistan was suffering from a "great misconception" because of the security environment in the region.

In fact for 95 per cent of the country it was "business as usual."

Every leading multinational was operating in Pakistan and with 200 million people and a middle class of 70 to 80 million, they had good results and many had expansion plans.

Speaking about the massacre at an Army school in Peshawar last year in which 132 schoolboys and 13 adults were killed, Mr Iqbal said some good had come from it.


"The Peshawar tragedy has unified the nation and has given a new resolve to the whole to work together to defeat these elements decisively.

"Political parties and the civil and military leadership have forged a new consensus that is unprecedented in our country."

Another important development for the stability of the region was Pakistan's relationship with Afghanistan and its new president, Ashraf Ghani.

There had been high-level exchanges at a political, military and intelligence level, he said.

"This is a new beginning between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Before we did not have this kind of confidence and proximity in our relationships."

Mr Iqbal is part of what he calls a pro-business Government which came to power in 2013.

As Minister of Planning and Development, it is hardly surprising that Mr Iqbal is full of plans for ways to develop Pakistan's economy.

One of Pakistan's plans with China is to develop an "economic corridor" between Kashgar in western China down to the Pakistan deep-sea port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea, a distance of about 2500 km compared with about 15,000 trade route via the port of Shanghai and into the Arabian Sea.

He said Pakistan could take advantage of its position in the centre of South Asia, China and Central Asia.

"This region houses about three billion people which is half of the world. If we build these north, south east and west corridors, we can create a market of three billion."

He has plans for New Zealand's role in Pakistan's development as well, particularly in the dairy and energy sectors, and has invited Trade Minister Tim Groser and Energy Minister Simon Bridges to Pakistan.

Pakistan was already the fourth largest producer or milk in the world and agriculture is the largest sector of the economy. Pakistan also had an energy crisis and New Zealand had a lot of energy expertise.

"With this size of market and opportunity for growth in the future, it is important that we invite companies from overseas which can help us develop our economy. There are attractive business opportunities and New Zealand has many opportunities for investment in that part of the world."