By Asghar Ali Mubarak
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi participated in the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) Video-Conference convened by the Russian Federation in its capacity as current chair of SCO, today. Besides Pakistan, the meeting was attended by Foreign Ministers of all Member States, the Secretary General SCO, and Director of the Executive Committee of the SCO Regional Anti-terrorist Structure.
Apart from the prevailing pandemic situation, matters relating to peace and security in the region including Afghanistan came under discussion.
In his remarks, the Foreign Minister opined that the Covid-19 pandemic posed a challenge of unprecedented scale and magnitude to humanity that necessitated coordinated responses. The crisis was a litmus test for multilateralism, and the SCO was well equipped to tackle it. The Foreign Minister specifically praised China’s responsible handling of the crisis and its leading role in assisting the international community. He also expressed gratitude for China’s assistance to Pakistan.
The Foreign Minister briefed the SCO Foreign Ministers on Pakistan’s coordinated response to COVID-19 covering the public health as well as the economic aspects of the crisis. The Foreign Minister observed that even though infections were spreading, Pakistan had seen relatively low fatalities.
However, he added that there was no room to let our guard down. Highlighting the socio-economic repercussions of the health crisis, Foreign Minister Qureshi underscored the salience of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s “Global Initiative on Debt Relief” for developing countries as a means to formulate a comprehensive multi-stakeholder plan of action to shore up economies and promote sustainable growth.
He emphasized that SCO’s coordinated efforts in this context would be crucial.
The Foreign Minister made a number of proposals to strengthen coordination among SCO States against the pandemic, including regular interaction among Ministries of Health; joint research mechanisms; and strengthening of SCO Hospital Alliance.
As a means to support the economically vulnerable segments of society, underlined Pakistan’s proposal for creation of the SCO Experts Group on Poverty Alleviation, as well as setting up the Centre of Excellence on Poverty. Foreign Minister Qureshi also stressed the need for SCO to reject stigmatization and discrimination of any community in the context of Covid-19 on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity.
Commenting on the regional situation, the Foreign Minister welcomed the U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement and hoped that the Afghan leadership would seize the historic opportunity to work out a comprehensive and inclusive political settlement. SCO, through the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, could play a facilitative role at this juncture.
The Foreign Minister emphasized that tackling terrorism and extremism must continue to be a priority but terrorism related allegations must not be used as political tool to malign and victimize any country or religion.
The Foreign Minister called for the international community to condemn and hold accountable the perpetrators of State terrorism, including against people under illegal occupation.
He also stressed the importance of rejecting xenophobic ideologies including Islamophobia.
Pakistan considers SCO an important platform to foster regional cooperation for peace, security, connectivity and socio-economic development. Pakistan has been actively contributing towards the objective of SCO since becoming its Member in 2017.