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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Wednesday called upon the member countries of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) to play their due role in ensuring peaceful transition of the US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan as chaos in Afghanistan will affect the whole region.

Speaking at the general conference of Parliamentary Assembly of Economic Cooperation Organization (PAECO), Imran said that Pakistan and Tajikistan have agreed that all-out efforts would be made for a political settlement of Afghanistan issue after the peaceful US troops’ withdrawal as it is in the interest of the region.

“If we could not find a political settlement for the Afghanistan issue, it will affect the whole region, as after the US troops’ withdrawal, the next step is of development and connectivity, for which peaceful transition is a must,” he added.

He warned that any negligence in dealing with Afghanistan issue especially after the US troops drawdown, would lead to chaos in Afghanistan in particular and the region in general like Soviet Union’s defeat in 1989.

“So we, the ECO countries should try our level best that the US troops’ withdrawal [from Afghanistan] should be peaceful,” he maintained.

The 10-member ECO, which is an Asian political and economic intergovernmental organization founded in 1985 in Tehran by the leaders of Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey, the prime minister said that “it’s a combined population of 450 million which can become a whole powerhouse, if its great potential is used for trade, and economic development”.

The prime minister appreciated the Islamabad Charter signed by the ECO member countries during the ongoing moot, saying it would go a long way in bolstering the connectivity between the ECO member countries.

“In the world, this is not the countries which are developed, these are the regions which are developed,” he added.

He said that different countries in the ECO region have different advantages, which if utilised properly, the whole region can become self-sufficient without looking forward to any other developed country, adding, if we tapped the potential of 450 million people, it will benefit all of us.

Recalling creation of the European Union (EU) back in the days when he was studying at Oxford, he added, all those countries which had joined the EU, their standard of living went up within no time and today they are considered developed countries of the world.

“Whenever you increase economic cooperation and relax customs duties for each other, it automatically boosts the regional trade, and benefits the region as a whole in increasing the trade and making its economically empowered,” he added.

The prime minister went on to say that the region has great opportunity to increase connectivity through communications, educational and cultural exchange programmes as well as implementation of other things agreed during the ongoing session, as it will bring all member countries together.

The prime minister especially lauded the joint resolutions passed by the ECO for solution of Kashmir and Palestine issues, saying the ECO members have taken a clear stand on these two political issues, with them they had emotional attachments.

He said that the UN resolutions are not implemented and worst kind of barbarism is taking place in both Kashmir and Palestine, and expressed hope that the voice raised by the ECO countries –no matter how small it is – would spread all over the world sooner or later.

Referring to his meeting with the Tajikistan president, who is on an official visit to Pakistan, he added, both the countries have agreed to respond to climate change through timely steps such as Pakistan had done through its billion tree tsunami programme.

He said that countries such as Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan etc – which depend on glacier waters – would be worst affected due to climate change, if timely measures are not taken.

He said that the region needs a holistic and collaborative approach towards prosperity and welfare of the people, particularly in view of the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The post-Covid-19 scenario significantly altered the core focus of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and progress in several areas of the SDGs is likely to be reversed, he added.

Later, the ECO countries emphasised on enhancing cooperation in all forms of tourism for sustainable development and poverty alleviation.

A joint statement adopted at the concluding session of the General Conference of the Parliamentary Assembly of the ECO said that the member states must pool their resources to build the capacity of local communities through education and training of their population, especially in livelihoods connected to tourism.

It also stressed the need for promoting religious, cultural, and health tourism through enhanced connectivity and development of infrastructure and institutions in the tourist industry of all member states.

All member states also reiterated the importance of sustainable eco-tourism, which is both a powerful source of perpetual poverty alleviation as well as environmental conservation for coming generations.

The statement said elimination of terrorism is a key to ensuring security in our region, which is vital to attract and develop our tourism industries.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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