ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday called upon the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) to devise a joint strategy for ensuring equitable access and distribution of Covid-19 vaccine for the public good.
The prime minister, in his address to the virtual 14th ECO Summit themed ‘Regional Economic Cooperation in the aftermath of Covid-19’, stressed the need for mobilising the resources of ECO countries to fight the pandemic effectively.
Mr Khan opened the summit in Pakistan’s capacity as the chair of the 13th summit held in Islamabad and lauded Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the current chair, for his timely initiative amidst the Covid-19 scenario.
He said since the Covid-19 pandemic was still not over, there must be a collective effort for production of vaccine on an affordable rate and it should be declared the public good.
Says Pakistan, Turkey and OIC have initiated a proposal for the annual observance of an international day to combat Islamophobia
According to him, no one will be safe from virus unless everyone is safe. Pakistan had launched the Covid-19 inoculation with frontline workers on priority, he added.
He mentioned that the ECO member states were severely affected by the health and economic crisis unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic with over 150 million people hit by the virus and over 2.5 million lost their lives.
He said the developing countries, including the ECO member countries, had been disproportionately affected with economy declined and poverty increased.
Mr Khan said Pakistan faced challenges during the pandemic, however, it adopted a people and poor-centric approach to balance saving of lives and livelihoods.
Despite the financial constraints, he said, his government allocated an unprecedented $8 billion to the poorest and most vulnerable households through small businesses and direct handouts.
The prime minister said the rich countries injected $20 trillion to their economies to stimulate growth but the developing countries did not have the capacity for fiscal space to ensure liquidity.
He recalled his proposal of a five-point plan to provide developing countries the fiscal space to recover from Covid-19 crisis, including debt relief, creation and redistribution of special drawing rights, concessional finance, mobilisation of climate finance, and ending illicit financial floors and return of stolen assets back to developing countries.
Mr Khan pointed out that $1 trillion was illegally transferred every year from poor to rich countries and also to tax havens.
Apart from health and economic consequences, he said, the Covid-19 crisis had exacerbated the manifestation of religious discrimination, xenophobia and Islamophobia in various parts of the world, which was witnessed in Pakistan’s neighbourhood as well.
He said the Covid-19 lockdown enabled the suppression of people in occupied territories struggling for their right to self-determination.
He said it was essential to reject any attempt linking Islam with terrorism and termed it the “biggest injustice” being done to Muslims across the world. The misuse of freedom of expression to cause pain to Muslims by blasphemous acts must be stopped.
Mr Khan said at the United Nations, Pakistan, Turkey and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had presented a proposal for the annual observance of an international day to combat Islamophobia.
With rich resources and enterprising people, he said, the ECO member countries represented half a billion people covering an area of eight million square miles and formed the geographical link in the Asian continent east and west and north and south.
He said the common cultural and heritage was nurtured by luminaries like Al-Bairuni, Farabi, Rumi and Iqbal, which could provide a solid foundation for cooperation under the ECO umbrella in sectors, particularly trade, energy, tourism, agriculture and industrial growth.
Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2021