ISLAMABAD: The six-nation first Speakers Conference got under way in Islamabad with the theme of ‘Challenges of terrorism and inter-regional connectivity’.
Speakers of regional stakeholders including Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Russian Federation and Turkey are participating in the conference along with their respective parliamentary delegations.
President Mamnoon Hussain, Speaker of the National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani are attending the conference, which is intended to enable the participating countries to engage in meaningful discussions to explore common means of combating terrorism, maintaining peace and enhancing connectivity of people and states.
Addressing the opening session of the conference, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani slammed the United States’ recent comments about Pakistan and said Pakistan, “as an independent and sovereign state, is not used to being put on notice by any country.”
“The US is ignoring Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism,” he said, adding that the United States was putting the blame of its failures in Afghanistan on Pakistan’s shoulders.
The US received a befitting response to its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in the UN General Assembly, Rabbani added.
The Senate Chairman said a new nexus among the United States, Israel and India had emerged and the US was trying to promote India as policeman of the region.
He said Pakistan believes in dialogue and friendly relations with its neighbours and unless India talks to Pakistan on the basis of sovereign equality, the dream of peace would remain a mirage.
Speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq said the participants of the conference reject terrorism in every form.
“Non-state actors have dealt a blow to protection of national borders and sovereignty of nations,” he lamented.
He also pointed out that Pakistan has suffered losses of $120 billion due to the menace of terrorism, and over 0.2 million people have lost their lives to terrorism over the past decade.
The Speaker emphasised the need for addressing the root causes of terrorism. He particularly referred to the Middle East problem and the question of right of self-determination of Kashmiri people. He also regretted that the recent decision of the US to move its embassy to Jerusalem would undermine peace in the region.
“Conflict should not come in the way of our progress,” Sadiq said, emphasising the need for mutual resolve and cooperation to counter terrorism.
He said it was for the first time that parliamentary heads of six nations had gathered to re-affirm their commitment to shared peace, prosperity and forge new grounds of mutual cooperation.
He said it was a defining moment that chosen representatives of people of these countries were sitting together to reflect aspirations of their people to live side by side in respect, trust and friendship.
The NA speaker pointed out that the six countries are natural allies because of geographical proximity, shared history and cultural affinities. He said China, Russia and Iran are among top nations of the world with largest deposits of natural resources. China and Pakistan alone provide half of the world’s cotton. Untapped resources of Afghanistan can make it the richest mining region of the world and the construction industry places Turkey among the top ranking countries in the field.
President Mamnoon Hussain, in his address, said Pakistan was dragged into the war against terrorism following the 9/11 incident.
The head of the state said the unresolved Kashmir dispute has put the entire subcontinent’s peace at stake.
The president further said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is near completion and the One Belt One Road initiative would transform regional connectivity.
The future of the region is deeply linked to active linkages, increased mutual trade and intensive cooperation, he said, and invited all states of the region to join the fate changer CPEC project.
He One Belt One Road and CPEC would bring markets of West China, South and Central Asia, Africa and Europe together and a network of land routes, railways, sea lanes and Optic Highways would lead to increased and intensified interaction between different countries and regions.
President Mamnoon added that the dream of strong economic cooperation remains intrinsically linked to regional peace and peaceful co-existence. He said it is with this spirit that Pakistan has extended sincere and unconditional cooperation for peace and stability in Afghanistan.
‘Need to work together to address today’s challenges’
Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Zhang Ping said no country alone can address the challenges facing the mankind and therefore, the countries will have to work together to tackle them. He said the six countries meeting today are important countries of the region and should commit to secure peace and stability through collective efforts.
President of the Wolesi Jirga of Afghanistan Abdul Raouf Ibrahimi said addressing the challenges of terrorism should be our priority as our progress, peace and prosperity are deeply linked to the issue. He said the problem is assuming new dimensions as terrorist groups have modern weapons and ammunition.
Speaker of Islamic Consultative Assembly of Iran Dr. Ali Ardeshir Larijani said Islam is a religion of peace and those misusing the name of religion for terrorist activities are doing no service to Islam. He said occupation of other countries, poverty and under-development are some of the causes of extremism and terrorism and these must be addressed to overcome the problem.
Chairman of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Vyacheslav V. Volodin said the world can defeat terrorism through collective efforts, and called for choking funding for terrorism and strengthening legislative measures.
Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey Ismail Kahraman said the conference is going to yield positive results and therefore, it needs to be made a permanent feature. He said Turkey has also remained a victim of terrorism.