ISLAMABAD - Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has called for a regional approach to meet the common challenges including Covid-19, food insecurity, locust invasion and climate change. He was virtually addressing the meeting of SAARC Council of Ministers on the sidelines of 75th session of the UN General Assembly. The Foreign Minister reiterated Pakistan’s willingness to host the 19th SAARC summit in Islamabad at the earliest.

He expressed the hope that the artificial obstacles created in its way would be removed and SAARC would be enabled to function as an effective instrument of regional cooperation.

The Foreign Minister said Pakistan, being a founding member of SAARC, has always attached great importance to this platform and remains committed to the principles and objectives of the SAARC Charter.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Pakistan has always been supportive of the idea of upgrading the Observer Status to Dialogue partners of those Observer Countries that are actively engaged with SAARC Countries and that can play an important role in the development of the region, especially in the context of post-pandemic economic recovery.

Highlighting Pakistan’s success against Covid-19, the Foreign Minister said though Pakistan may have controlled the Pandemic within its boundaries, it believes that a regional approach is needed to stop the spread of Covid-19 and save lives and livelihoods of the people of South Asia.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi stressed for peaceful resolution of outstanding disputes to achieve development, economic growth, poverty alleviation and social uplift of masses.   In this context, we strongly emphasize the importance of faithfully following the UN Charter and implementing UN Security Council Resolutions.

The Foreign Minister said we must   condemn, oppose any unilateral and illegal measures to change the status of disputed territories in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions. Such unilateral measures run counter to our shared objective of creating a regional environment of amity and cooperation and these must be opposed resolutely.

 

He urged the Council members to take cognizance of the systematic human rights violations of the people suffering from long-running disputes and ensure their protection

 

Also, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday said sustainable peace in the region would remain a dream until the core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir was resolved as per the Resolutions of United Nations Security Council and the aspirations of Kashmiri people.

 

In his virtual address to the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia (CICA) from here, he said brutal and inhuman military siege and communications blockade since India’s illegal and unilateral actions of last August had destroyed life in IIOJK.

 

The Foreign Minister apprised the meeting that India’s move had resulted in crippled livelihoods and imperiled the core identity of the people of IIOJK. He stressed that repression against Kashmiris and denying them their fundamental right of self-determination, as enshrined in the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, was against the fundamental principles of CICA.

 

Qureshi said Pakistan had always been at the forefront of all international initiatives for promoting peace, tolerance, inter-cultural and inter-faith harmony and respect both at home and abroad. He reiterated Pakistan’s firm commitment to global and regional peace and stability, and towards the socio-economic welfare of its people through partnerships at regional and sub-regional levels.

 

“We believe that a peaceful and secure environment, regionally as well as globally, would substantially contribute towards sustainable economic growth and development, reduction in poverty and enhance the welfare of our people,” he said. Terming as ‘historic’ the launch of Intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha, the Foreign Minister said Prime Minister Imran Khan had long maintained that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan as ‘political solution was the only way forward’.

 

Qureshi expressed satisfaction that Pakistan’s perspective was now widely shared across the international community and urged upon the Afghan leaders to seize historic opportunity by working for an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement.

 

Successful culmination of Intra-Afghan negotiations remains indispensable for peace, stability and prosperity in the region and beyond, he said. The Foreign Minister emphasised Pakistan’s facilitation of the process that culminated in the US-Taliban Peace Agreement in Doha on February 29 this year.

 

Spoilers, he said, both internal and external, could pose formidable challenges that required constant vigilance to guard against their machinations. He highlighted the alarming situation of the global resurgence of xenophobia, Islamophobia, hatred and acts of violence against minorities. He pointed out the disproportionate growth in hate speech and stigmatisation of Muslim communities and individuals, including happening in Pakistan’s neighbourhood.

 

He assured Pakistan’s commitment to promoting peace, stability and development in the region. Qureshi said as COVID-19 affected the entire globe with unprecedented health, humanitarian and economic challenges, the cooperative multilateralism offered the best mechanism to effectively address these issues.

 

He said Pakistan like other worked for a concerted international effort to fight the pandemic and develop a vaccine accessible for global public good. He mentioned Prime Minister Imran Khan’s proposal of ‘Global Initiative on Debt Relief ‘ for developing countries to achieve enhanced fiscal capacity and tackle the negative consequences of the pandemic.

The Foreign Minister said Pakistan fully supported China’s Belt and Road Initiative and was proud to be a key player in one of its flagship projects - China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

He said besides Pakistan’s development, CPEC would ensure benefit to Central Asian and Eurasian neighbours. He expressed gratitude to outgoing Chairman Foreign Minister of Tajikistan for his dynamic leadership of CICA during the last two years and congratulated Mukhtar Tileuberdi, as Kazakhstan assumed the CICA’s chairmanship.

 

Meanwhile, Shah Mahmood Qureshi has apprised the UN Security Council of the grave situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

The Foreign Minister has addressed another letter to the Council President, Abdou Abarry of Niger.

Among other things, the Foreign Minister has further highlighted the gross and systematic violations of human rights in IIOJK, India’s illegal measures to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory, and the threat to peace and security posed by India’s belligerent rhetoric and actions.

He has underlined that a fresh reign of terror has been unleashed by India in IIOJK. More than 900,000 Indian troops have kept 8 million Kashmiris under an inhuman military siege for more than a year.

The letter notes recent joint communication by 18 Special Procedure Mandate Holders of the Human Rights Council, who stated that the human rights situation in IIOJK is in “free fall”.

The Foreign Minister’s letter further underscores that the recent measures taken by India such as the “Jammu & Kashmir Reorganization Order 2020”, “Jammu & Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate Rules 2020” and “Jammu and Kashmir Language Bill 2020”, are designed to change the demography of IIOJK from a Muslim majority to a Hindu majority territory and to obliterate its distinct identity – which is a clear violation of international law, particularly the 4th Geneva Convention.

The Foreign Minister has also highlighted the indiscriminate and unprovoked violations of ceasefire by India on the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, including deliberate targeting of civilian population and civilian areas. He reiterated Pakistan’s proposal to strengthen UNMOGIP in the region to effectively carry out its mandate.

The Foreign Minister emphasized that the Security Council should play its due role by urging India to immediately lift the inhuman military siege and rescind illegal actions taken since 5 August 2019.

He expressed the hope that the Security Council would take cognizance of this serious and urgent matter that requires an immediate redressal.

This was imperative for the provision of humanitarian relief to the Kashmiris trapped in the occupied territory as well as for the maintenance of regional peace and security.