Pakistani PM Gilani urges SAARC countries to put up collective flight against extremism, intolerance


Thimphu, Bhutan : Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani Wednesday stressed upon SAARC member countries to join hands for fight against the forces of extremism and intolerance.

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Addressing the 16th SAARC Summit in Thimphu, Bhutan, the Prime Minister called for uniting against forces of extremism and intolerance.

“We need to forge a common front, based on tolerance, on respect for human dignity and universal values.”

He said terrorism has affected the South Asian region and impacted each of its countries.

“This toxic brew, under the garb of diverse ideologies and diverse agendas has taken root,” he said adding terrorism is a phenomenon that is global, regional, local, trans-national and trans-regional.

It has roots in history, in economic neglect and injustice.

He expressed the hope that the forthcoming meeting of the SAARC Interior Ministers in Islamabad would help strengthen cooperation in fight against terrorism.

“By synergizing capabilities and creating partnerships we can effectively address the common challenges of our common neighbourhood.”

The Prime Minister said the overriding priority for the SAARC region is development which is also Pakistan’s priority.

“To realize socio-economic development and ensure the well-being of our people, we need to create harmony and stability,” he added.

He said peace and stability at home and in the region is an indispensable condition for development.

“We must reflect individually and collectively on how best to create peace, stability and harmony in our societies and region-wide.”

The Prime Minister pointed out that the vast array of SAARC’s programmes and activities were indicative of the region’s resolve to develop a holistic development paradigm and poverty alleviation was a priority.

Socio economic disparities within the region and sub-regions have to be addressed and there is the need for greater coordination between national and regional plans, he remarked.

Gilani said the promise of SAARC can only be realized if they are able to not only deepen engagement but also benefit from the process of globalization.

He said South Asia can become an engine for global economic growth.

“Our vast markets, our natural and human resources, our innovative spirit are critical ingredients for developing win-win scenarios. It is a deliberate shift from dependence to accepting the reality of inter-dependence that we shall be able to forge partnerships that are mutually beneficial,” he added.

The Prime Minister said poverty alleviation, food and energy security, health and education are among the SAARC priorities and efforts must be redoubled to realize the SAARC Development Goals.

The Prime Minister said SAARC region with its widespread poverty, agrarian base, stressed water resources, varying food productivity and susceptibility to natural disasters is particularly vulnerable to the vagaries of weather.

Bhutan has been the torch bearer of environmental responsibility, therefore it is apt that the SAARC Convention on Cooperation on Environment is being signed in Bhutan, he added.

Gilani called the convention a welcome step and said, “We must focus on sharing best practices and pool our resources to adopt region wise mitigation and adaptation measures.”

“We must develop mechanisms to address our carbon footprints, in a manner that does not jeopardize our growth and development prospects.”

He underlined the need for more steps to preserve the region’s eco-system and precious water resources.

Pursuant to the Agreement on Environment, a Joint SAARC Study on Himalayan Glaciers may be commissioned, he said adding regional cooperation on water conservation and water management should be instituted together with programmes for watershed rehabilitation on major South Asian river systems.
He welcomed the inauguration of the Secretariat of the SAARC Development Fund in Thimphu for effective utilization of the fund for the benefit of the people.

He expressed satisfaction at the working of the Food Bank, the SAARC Arbitration Council and the Regional Standards Organization.

“The intra-regional trade is less than five per cent. We should address the issues impeding intra-regional trade. SAARC must also seek free and preferential trading arrangements with other regions, notably EU and ASEAN,” he added.

The Prime Minister said, “We must work towards concluding Regional Inter-Governmental Framework Agreement on Energy Cooperation. SAARC should be a catalyst in harnessing indigenous sources of energy. I can visualize the benefit to our region from Bhutan’s hydro-electric potential.”

The Prime Minister said there was time to promote collective scientific research and transfer of applied technologies.

“We may contemplate establishment of SAARC Science Foundation, as well as SAARC Biotechnology and Nanotechnology Forums.”

Gilani said Pakistan is fully focussed on delivering on the SAARC Social Charter and poverty alleviation and women empowerment programmes had been undertaken.

He referred to the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) as a unique instrument for a massive social reach out to the poorest of poor.

“Its main focus is to empower women so as to enable them to improve their socio-economic conditions. We would be happy to share the BISP experience with SAARC. Internally SAARC must increasingly adopt a project based approach, co-opting our private sectors, and capitalizing on the many win-win opportunities that our region affords. And externally, SAARC must reach out to other regions to develop win-win partnerships.”

The Prime Minister said people should have security of environment, energy, food, water and protection from terror, conflict, want and poverty.

He said the summit provides an opportunity to reinvent the engagement and mark a fresh beginning.

“Only when we refuse to be held hostage to history. Only when we sincerely and assiduously work to build trust, resolve disputes, bridge perceptions and see merit in an enlightened collective self interest, will we be able to unleash our latent potential.”

He said ways and means should be found to enable these and other interested states and regional organizations to engage with SAARC.

SAARC affords the right platform to realize these aspirations and to transform South Asia’s vast development potential into reality, he added.

For many years, the Prime Minister said, real progress remained stalled due in part to hesitancy borne from historical legacies, differences and disputes.

However, the past could not obfuscate the promise of a glorious future.

The wholehearted commitment of the member states to the goals and objectives of SAARC remained robust, he said adding, “the future beckons us to accelerate the process of regional cooperation. Deepen and broaden the SAARC enterprise.”