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ISLAMABAD: In a hard-hitting speech at the six-nation Speakers Confe­rence, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani on Sunday warned of the emergence of a nexus between the US, Israel and India, even as speakers from the parliaments of Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan denounced American policy in the Middle East.

Participants of the first Speakers’ Conference, titled ‘The Challenges of Terrorism and Inter-Reg­ional Connectivity’, issued a joint declaration rejecting “all unilateral and extra-territorial laws and judicial verdicts by any country against other state, which are in contradiction to international laws, United Nations charter and violate sovereignty and independence of states”.

The declaration singled out the Trump administration’s move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“We condemn any decision and actions, which purported to have altered the character, the status or demographic composition of the holy city of Al Quds, have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with the relevant UN resolutions. We affirm our commitment to Middle East settlement based on international law,” it read.

Warns Washington not to prop up New Delhi as regional ‘policeman’; speakers of six parliaments assail US Al Quds move

Highlighting issues such as the continued occupation of Kashmir and the crises in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the conference vowed to eliminate terrorism in all its forms, with an emphasis on the fight against the militant Islamic State group.

The declaration was signed by Abdul Raouf Ibrahimi, president of the Afghan Wolesi Jirga; Mr Zhangping, vice chairman, Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of China; Islamic Consultative Assem­bly of Iran Speaker Dr Ali Ardeshir Larijani; Vyach­eslav V. Volodin, Chairman of the Russian State Duma; Turkish Grand National Assembly Speaker Ismail Kahraman; and National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq.

‘Not in habit of taking notices’

In his speech, the Senate chairman laid into the recently-announced US National Security Strategy and the statements of US President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Referring to the latter’s allegation that Pakistan had been providing safe havens to terrorists, but had stopped doing so after President Trump “put it on notice”, Mr Rabbani said: “Pakistan is a sovereign state and is not in the habit of taking notices from anyone, let alone the US.”

He accused the US of pursuing a policy of “regime change and destabilisation in Muslim countries”, particularly in the Middle East. Describing President Trump’s decision to shift the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as the “blunder of all blunders”, the Senate chairman said the UN General Assembly had given Washington a befitting reply after over 120 countries voted to reject the move recently.

Mr Rabbani asserted that the US National Security Strategy seemed to be aimed at propping up India. “We find the US is trying to use or build up India as a policeman of the region,” he noted.

Although Pakistan believes in dialogue and friendly relations with its neighbours, Mr Rabbani said, peace would remain a mirage until New Delhi agreed to treat Islamabad on equal terms.

Speaking on the occasion, President Mamnoon Hussain said Pakistan was dragged into the quagmire of the war on terrorism after the tragic incidents of Sept 11, 2001.

He said terrorism had created immense problems in several countries of the region, with Pakistan being the most severely affected. In the past few years, more than 70,000 Pakistanis had lost their lives, while acts of terrorism had caused financial losses of over $120 billion.

NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq explained how the problems of extremism were being aggravated by the rise of the drug trade. “Why has the global coalition against terrorism consistently failed to control and destroy poppy cultivation?” he asked.

“Although religious fanaticism has often been cited as the main cause of global terrorism, let us not forget that the rise of the right and the sanctioning of oppression have also added to the mayhem,” he said.

The forum also expressed its commitment to promotion of peace, development and connectivity through China’s Belt and Road Initiative, as well as greater people-to-people contact in the realms of “education, human resource development, innovation and entrepreneurship, cultural exchanges and tourism”.

Dubbed the ‘Islamabad Declaration’, the joint document concluded on an agree­ment to hold the next such meeting in Iran in 2018.

PM meets Russian delegate

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi met Vyacheslav Volodin, Chairman of the Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament), where the two men talked about peace and stability in Afghanistan and the challenges posed by the drug trade.

Mr Volodin thanked Mr Abbasi and said that better trade ties between the two countries would serve to provide a solid base for greater cooperation and the strengthening of bilateral relations.

Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2017