TASHKENT: Advisor to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz Friday urged the members of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to unite against the diverse challenges of the region including terrorism, extremism, energy crisis, food-security environmental degration and shrinking export market due to continuing financial crisis in the Western world.
He said these challenges can also be converted into opportunities. Addressing the SCO heads of government meeting at Tashkent, he said the SCO region has human and technical resources to counter these challenges.
He said the region has created a framework of cooperation, in the shape of SCO, to deal collectively with common challenges. SCO regional bloc can make a valuable contribution to global peace, security and economic prosperity, he added.
Sartaj Aziz said that Pakistan became an Observer state in SCO in 2005 and applied for full membership in 2010.
In the past 8 years, he said, Pakistan has attended all the SCO meetings.
As an observer, Pakistan values the pronouncement of the member states on the need for greater involvement for the SCO Observer states and dialogue partners in practical cooperation within the framework of the organization, he added.
He conveyed the regrets of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that he could not participate in the meeting adding that for centuries, like Tashkent has been a cradle of civilization. “Our meeting in this legendary city will guide our work in promising a better, brighter tomorrow for the people of our region,” he added. He said the SCO has a unified vision, characterized by trans-regional cooperation for peace and development.
He said it offers the right framework for inclusive and participatory approach, based on principle of equality and equity among nations large and small.
He said the SCO’s noble objectives, impressive accomplishments and its expanding horizon, provide very strong foundation for the expanding activities of the organization.
He said, “The scourge of terrorism and extremism is our common enemy. In view of the globalized nature of this threat, effective international and regional cooperation towards countering terrorism is essential.”
He said Pakistan is making significant headway in its struggle against terrorism and extremism.
The people and security agencies of Pakistan have made immense sacrifice in the fight against terrorism and these sacrifices must be acknowledged, he added.
He said,”We, however, recognize that terrorism cannot be eliminated by military means alone.
We are, therefore, pursuing a policy of dialogue with those extremist elements willing to be engaged, to bring an end to the ongoing violence and make them a part of mainstream politics within the parameters of our constitution.
Sartaj Aziz said social and economic development is also a key to countering terrorism.
Since assuming office, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has, therefore, made economic uplift of the country as top priority.
“Pakistan looks towards SCO support in building up our national counter terrorism capacity”, he added. He said peace, stability and security of Afghanistan, is central to the peace and stability of neighborhood.
Pakistan wishes brotherly Afghanistan peace and prosperity. “We are offering all possible assistance in facilitating an Afghan-led and an Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. We have no favorites in Afghanistan,” he said.
He said interests of Pakistan and SCO converge in Afghanistan.
In the wake of drawdown of ISAF Forces, SCO needs to deepen its engagement with Afghanistan.
He said there should be no security or economic vacuum in the country after the withdrawal of international forces and Pakistan would welcome SCO initiatives to deepen assistance for Afghanistan.
Pakistan would be happy to partner with SCO and Afghanistan especially in helping arrest the trans-regional flows of weapons and narcotics, he added.
He said Pakistan is working on the twin objectives of preserving domestic peace and ensuring regional stability. He said Pakistan’s economic fundamentals are strong. Far-reaching economic reforms are helping a turn around.