ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office (FO) on Thursday said Pakistan’s call for economic relief for struggling economies, lifting sanctions on Iran and alleviating suffering of Kashmiris in view of the raging Covid-19 pandemic was gaining resonance and becoming a strong voice globally.
Foreign Office Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui, in written responses to queries from journalists under the new media briefing format, said Prime Minister Imran Khan’s call for debt rescheduling and economic assistance for the developing countries “has gathered traction in recent days, evidenced by the joint statement of IMF and the World Bank calling for suspension of debt payments for poorer countries”.
Moreover, she said an extraordinary G-20 meeting is likely to take place to discuss the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global economy and developing countries.
The Pakistan government in its diplomatic outreach on the Covid-19 pandemic had essentially focused on three messages — the need for providing relief in repayment of loans and economic assistance to developing countries so that they could focus on dealing with the pandemic; removal of US sanctions on Iran that were impeding its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, being the worst-affected country in the Middle East; and lifting of lockdown and communications blockade imposed by Indian occupation forces on Occupied Kashmir.
Pakistan says lifting of restrictions in held Kashmir has been demanded by all and sundry
Additionally, Foreign Minis-ter Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while talking to foreign ministers of countries in South Asia, reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and reiterated the desire to host a video-conference of the health ministers of the regional bloc over Covid-19.
Letters were written to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and these messages were also underscored during Mr Qureshi’s telephonic conversations with counterparts in Bangladesh, Iran, the Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Turkey, Germany, Spain and France over the past few days.
The FO spokesperson said that the foreign minister in his conversations with his counterparts expressed deep concern at the loss of precious lives by the Covid-19 outbreak in many parts of the world and exchanged views on best ways to control the spread of the coronavirus as well as ways to enhance cooperation to combat the threat.
KASHMIR: Ms Farooqui said Pakistan “has not been alone” in demanding lifting of restrictions on communications and ensuring access to medical supplies in Occupied Kashmir as the same has been demanded by many from within IOJ&K, India, and other parts of the world.
She, however, regretted that India misleadingly and mischievously portrayed the effort as ‘politicisation’ of a humanitarian issue.
“Pakistan believes that the collective endeavors of South Asian nations to fight common challenges should not be allowed to become victim of self-serving propaganda,” she maintained.
IRAN/GULF: On Iran, the spokesperson said the governments of Pakistan and Iran were regularly interacting on issues related to the pandemic. “Close coordination is taking place between the two sides, both at the leadership and working levels. Pakistan realises the problems being faced by Iran in its fight against the virus due to economic sanctions,” she said.
Underscoring the need for end to disputes in the Gulf region, Ms Farooqui said that it has been Pakistan’s consistent position that political solutions should be found for differences and disputes in the region. “After the outbreak of Covid-19, we believe that the only way to pass through these extraordinary times is by standing together, leaving differences aside, and taking collective steps by the affected countries,” she emphasised.
AFGHANISTAN: Responding to a question about the Afghan peace process that suffered a setback because of the dispute over the results of presidential elections and the differences between the Taliban and Kabul over release of prisoners, the spokesperson said that the US-Taliban peace agreement signed in Doha on February 29 presented a “historic opportunity” for achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan was concerned over the delays in the implementation of the agreement.
“However, we are hopeful that all Afghan groups would seize this opportunity and work towards implementation of the peace agreement in letter and spirit,” she said.
Recent discussions between the Taliban and Afghan government have led to hopes that issues in prisoners’ release, which have held up the progress towards intra-Afghan dialogue, would be addressed soon. Spokesman for Taliban’s political office in Qatar Suhail Shaheen has said that prisoners’ release would commence from March 31 and a Taliban team would visit Bagram for identification, confirmation and release of prisoners.
BHUTAN: FM Qureshi on Thursday spoke to Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji of Bhutan to discuss challenges faced by South Asia and the ways to counter them in the wake of rapid spread of Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Qureshi reiterated Pakistan’s offer to host the Saarc Health Ministers’ Conference to enhance cooperation among member countries and development partners in the health sector, with special focus on Covid-19.
Foreign Minister Dorji welcomed the proposal and expressed Bhutan’s readiness to participate, the FO said in a statement.
Discussing the Saarc Covid-19 Emergency Fund, it was underlined that the fund should be placed under the Saarc secretary general and the modalities for its use be finalised through consultations.
Mr Dorji underscored that given the unprecedented economic challenges faced by the developing countries due to the pandemic, a serious consideration of the proposed debt restructuring was critical.
Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2020