Time to acknowledge Afghanistan’s ‘new reality’, says PM at SCO


LAHORE:

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said Pakistan has a vital interest in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan as he urged the international community to play its role in averting another humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

Addressing the 20th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Council of Heads of State (SCO-CHS) Summit in Dushanbe, the premier said it was time to stand with Afghanistan.

He added that the Afghan government has primarily relied on international aid; therefore, it was imperative to lend the country humanitarian assistance without any delay.

“The Taliban must fulfil the promises they have made,” he said and added that Pakistan will continue to lend its support to Afghanistan to support peace and stability in the region. The premier reiterated that Afghanistan could not be “controlled from the outside”.

Imran said Pakistan believed that “positive engagement” with the Taliban was “extremely important” to end the decades-long war. This is a “rare opportunity” that should not be squandered, he added.

The premier added it would be “unwise” to spread negativity or indulge in propaganda at this critical juncture.

“This will only serve to undermine the prospects for peace, to the detriment of the Afghan people,” he said.

During his address, PM Imran urged regional countries to “resist any drift towards bloc politics” for the sake of peaceful coexistence.

“Peaceful coexistence and cooperation – not confrontation, should be the main drivers of global politics,” he said, adding that addressing the threats to international and regional peace and security was a vital interest for the SCO.

According to the PM, the fight against terror would be futile if such threats and challenges were ignored. He said state terrorism was one of the biggest challenges perpetrated against people living under foreign occupation in disputed territories.

“In some cases, such extremist and bigoted ideologies have ascended to capture the state power in so-called democracies,” he added.

Imran added Pakistan believed that faithfully implementing UN Security Council resolutions for peaceful settlement of outstanding disputes was a necessary condition for peaceful co-existence.

Mentioning the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, the PM said that the global community should be relieved that the takeover was “bloodless”.

He said that there was no bloodshed, civil war, or mass exodus of refugees as a result of the takeover, adding that it was time to acknowledge that a “new reality” has been established.

“It is now in the international community’s collective interest to ensure that there is no renewed conflict in Afghanistan and the security situation is stabilised,” the premier told the SCO Summit participants.

He asserted that there was a need to support Afghanistan as preventing a humanitarian crisis and an economic meltdown were “equally urgent priorities”.

The prime minister added that the previous Afghan government relied on foreign aid and the suspension of the assistance could result in an economic meltdown.

Geo-economic paradigm

PM Imran also shared Pakistan’s new ‘economic security paradigm’ during his SCO address. He said that Islamabad has shifted its focus to geo-economics from geopolitics.

“Our new economic security paradigm has three central pillars: peace, development partnerships, and connectivity,” he said and added that Pakistan offered the shortest route to seaports while urging the Central Asian states to take advantage of this.

“There is no doubt that the web of rail, road, sea and air links across the SCO region will usher in a new era of enhanced trade, energy flows, and people-to-people exchanges.”

“This hard and soft connectivity will contribute significantly to progress and prosperity in the region and beyond,” he said, adding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will play a key role in boosting the connectivity.

Five points to move forward

The premier urged the states to throw their weight between multilateralism and principles of the UN Charter, particularly the right to self-determination.

“We must also strengthen our collective endeavours to mitigate the adverse economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including through the SCO Joint Advisory measures,” he said, adding that a coordinated approach was needed to stabilise the situation in Afghanistan through humanitarian assistance.

“We must also advance the agenda of regional connectivity. In this regard, taking the process forward, Pakistan would like to host a conference on the theme ‘Transport Connectivity for Regional Prosperity’ in the virtual mode in 2022,” he added.

The premier also appreciated the United Nations (UN) secretary-general and UN agencies for extending humanitarian assistance. He said Pakistan was also playing its part, such as the evacuation of foreigners from Kabul and sending essential supplies.

Earlier, the PM arrived at Nauroz palace – the venue of the SCO meeting — where he was warmly received by Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon.

Read NSA urges US to engage with Afghanistan

The PM’s visit is part of Pakistan’s deepened engagement with Central Asia, through the ‘Vision Central Asia’ policy, with a revitalised focus in five key areas of political ties, trade and investment, energy and connectivity, security and defence, and people-to-people contacts.

What is SCO

The SCO, an eight-member permanent inter-governmental trans-regional organisation, was established in Shanghai on June 15 2001. Pakistan became an SCO observer in 2005 and a full member in June 2017 during the Astana SCO-CHS Summit.

Russia, China, India, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan are other SCO members.

The SCO also has four Observer states (Iran, Mongolia, Belarus and Afghanistan) and six Dialogue Partners (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka).

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