ISLAMABAD - The heads of the parliaments from six regional countries have called for establishing a joint mechanism to cope with the challenges of terrorism and security besides promoting the inter-region connectivity.

Hosted by the National Assembly of Pakistan, three-day First Speakers’ Conference commenced here on Sunday with an objective to focus the parliamentary cooperation for peace, connectivity and prosperity in the region. The theme of conference is “the challenges of terrorism and inter-regional connectivity”.

“The colossal damage to global economy can be gauged from the fact that since 9/11, Pakistan alone has suffered a loss of over 119 billion dollars to its economy because of cowardly attacks,” Speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq said in his address to the moot.

He said the post cold-war world had proved to be more dangerous and insecure than the bipolar era, noting that almost half of the global terror attack, which claimed over two hundred thousand lives, happened in “our region”.

The rise of the Populist Right and sanctioning of oppression – from Middle East to Kashmir – have added fuel to the mayhem, while unchecked rise in the illicit drug trade has aggravated the problem, he said, stressing that religious fundamentalism was not the only culprit.

Ayaz said, “It is a defining moment when we, the chosen representatives, take a giant step to meet the aspirations of our people to live side by side in respect, trust and friendship.”

Parliamentary heads of the six countries – Afghanistan Abdul Rauf Ibraheemi, Iran’s Dr Ali Larejani, China’s Zhang Ping, Russia’s Volodin Vyacheslav Viktorovich and Turkey’s Ismail Kehrman – also addressed the inaugural session of the event.

Ayaz said these six countries represent a quarter of the total humanity and thirty percent total workforce. Three of these – China, Russia and Iran – are among the top six nations with the largest deposits of natural resources, he added.

The speaker said that China and Pakistan alone provide half of the world’s cotton, the untapped resources of Afghanistan could make the region the richest in mining, while Turkey’s mastery in infrastructural construction has brought it to the top rankings in the world.

But unluckily, “most of our respective countries have faced the maximum brunt [of terrorism] either through the al-Qaida, the Taliban, the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and now the eminent threat of the Daaish,” the speaker observed.

He said that innocent men, women and children across continents have been displaced and forced to leave their lands. Of the five top countries in the world, hosting largest number of refugees, three are represented here; namely Turkey, Pakistan and Iran.

“From the burning fields of the Middle East to the denial of fundamental right of self-determination in Kashmir, the world has failed to address the root-causes of extremism” he said.

“The recent controversy, created around the status of the Holy city of Jerusalem is not only a move to violate the international law and the related UN resolutions but also a deliberate attempt to undermine the peace efforts. It is a move to divide the people of the world further and fan religious animosity.”

Ayaz said the fateful vote in the Security Council, where 14 countries could not convince one country [the US] to show respect to the plight of the Palestinian people “reminds us that the world needs a more just and equitable order”.

He said this was also the beauty of parliamentary diplomacy through which the real representatives of the people could negotiate peaceful settlements of all outstanding disputes, this should be the spirit of this Conference as well.

He said that the overall mutual trade volume of six countries gathered here was just 366 billion dollars for the year 2016, which was merely 2 percent of the entire global trade volume.

He said despite sharing common borders, the intra-regional connectivity had remained at the lowest and added, “We do not have reliable railway links while our respective airlines also do not fly frequently to each other. As a result, the tourism among our six countries does not paint an exciting picture.”

The speaker proposed that the forum should be given permanent footings and the conference should become an annual feature. The National Assembly of Pakistan, he said, would be pleased to act as its Secretariat till a permanent secretariat and rules of the forum were jointly agreed.

 President’s address

President Mamnoon Hussain in his address said that terrorism was not a local phenomenon rather it was caused by interference of the foreign powers in the affairs of smaller nations.

He said Pakistan had been dragged into the war-quagmire after the tragic 9/11 incident. Due to the circumstances following the 9/11, the law and order in Pakistan was adversely affected, he added.

Mamnoon said terrorism had created immense problems in several countries of the region with Pakistan being the most affected during the last few years. More than 70,000 Pakistanis had lost their lives in acts of terrorism, besides the financial loss of more than 120 billion dollars, he added.

He told the gathering that Pakistan had initiated comprehensive steps to cope with the situation and had done so under the National Action Plan in different parts of the country while an effective military action has been taken in tribal areas under Operation Zrb-e-Azb operation.

 

As a result of these steps, the terrorists have received a severe blow. “I am sure that, this issue will be addressed completely in the near future,” the president went on to say.

Welcoming the guests, he hoped that the conference would prove extremely beneficial in combating the challenges being faced by the region as well as to utilise the opportunities for regional development and prosperity.

 

 

Terror caused us $119b loss