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Zardari urges neighbours to unite against terrorism

05 November, 2012

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ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday urged regional countries to join hands to fight the menace of extremism and terrorism, saying no country had suffered from it as much as Pakistan.

"We have lost more than 40,000 innocent lives in addition to Rs 80 billion in economic terms," he said, while addressing the inaugural ceremony of three-day sixth conference of the Association of SAARC Speakers and Parliamentarians at the Presidency.

The president said the region should adopt a collective approach to face the common challenges and explore the opportunities for benefit of the people. He urged parliamentarians from SAARC countries to play their proactive role in forging better bilateral relations and addressing inter-state issues to ensure peace, progress and prosperity in the region.

He said the SAARC parliaments should plan and lead efforts for solving complex issues by protecting political liberties, human freedoms and the rule of law to promote regional peace and security. He said Pakistan was committed to the SAARC charter and believed durable peace in the region was in the interest of all.

President Zardari said the government of Pakistan had taken bold decisions to empower parliament. A democratically elected government was nearing completion of its term and soon Pakistan would achieve a peaceful democratic transition. "We are well on our way to realising democracy's dividends," he added.

The president said some people might feel parliament was still under assault from some quarters, but these were teething problems of a genuine democratic transition. "These are the dying kicks of an old order," he added. He also said there was a need to address the issue of illegal drug trafficking, which was serving as a financial source for militancy. Emphasising greater people-to-people contacts between the regional countries, the president said dialogue among the SAARC parliamentarians would have a long-lasting and positive impact on the situation in the region and help achieve the ideals of peace and stability.

Earlier, National Assembly speaker and chairwoman of 6th Conference of the Association of SAARC Speakers and Parliamentarians, Dr Fehmida Mirza, in her welcome address, said parliaments, which were voices of the people, were most important forum to exchange views and discuss the regional issues. Indian Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, addressing on the occasion, said being representatives of the people, parliamentarians should play their proactive role to meet expectations of the people. She said increased interaction among SAARC member countries would help learn from each others' experiences and find solutions of daunting challenges.

Meanwhile, President Zardari met Meira Kumar separately at the Presidency after the inauguration of the SAARC conference. He said Pakistan would continue to play a proactive role to make SAARC a vibrant regional organisation. He said changing political and economic landscape had enhanced the role of SAARC parliaments, which were now well placed to plan and lead efforts for solving complex issues besetting the region. Discussing Pak-India bilateral relations, he said Pakistan was committed to a constructive, sustained and result-oriented process of engagement with India and reiterated his call for the two countries to make determined efforts for friendly, cooperative and good neighbourly relations.


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