• PM terms revival of ‘rapid, equitable economy’ Islamabad’s top priority
• Seeks dialogue-based resolution of regional disputes
• Says country’s security tied to stability in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: Highligh­ting the human rights abuses in India-held Kashmir (IHK), Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday urged regional countries to take notice of the violations that he said manifested the “Indian policy of preferring bullet over ballot”.

He said New Delhi had also blatantly disregarded the UN Security Council’s resolution on holding a plebiscite in Kashmir. “Through constructive dialogue, we can build mutual trust,” he remarked and mentioned Pakistan’s location offering a natural bridge among various regional economies.

The PM made these remarks while addressing the sixth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in the Kazakh capital, Astana. After attending the event, he returned home on Thursday.

On the sidelines of the conference, PM Sharif also met with many world leaders and discussed various issues of common interests. He invited them to invest in different sectors in Pakistan.

“I want to leave behind a legacy of peace and progress for the prosperity of the coming generations of our region,” he said while commenting on regional issues, including Kashmir and Palestine and revival of peace in Afghanistan, and calling for their dialogue-based resolution.

About Afghanistan, PM Sharif said: “A prosperous and stable Afghanistan is not only in the interest of Pakistan, but also the international community.”

Four decades of conflict not only took a heavy toll on the country, but also on its neighbour Pakistan, he added. However, he expre­ssed satisfaction that after offering immense sacrifices, Pakistan was now able to control extremism and terrorism on its soil besides managing to host four million Afghan refugees.

Referring to another regional dispute of Palestine, the prime minister reiterated his call for a peaceful resolution to ensure peace in the Middle East and the region. He called for pooling resources among regional countries to address the common challenges in the interest of peace and progress. “Pakistan’s first priority at the moment is to revive a rapid and equitable economy,” he said and highlighted the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which he said had transformed the economic and connectivity landscape of the region.

He also invited the CICA member states to consider benefiting from the trade, investment and business opportunities offered by Pakistan.

PM Sharif also thanked the countries that had stepped forward to assist Pakistan in carrying out relief and rehabilitation activities in the flood-affected areas.

On the sidelines

Later, following the conference, Pakistan and Kazakhstan agreed to diversify bilateral trade and explore possibilities of expanding investment cooperation. These issues were discussed in a meeting between Prime Minister Sharif and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

The two leaders reviewed the bilateral relations, including trade, connectivity and energy, and agreed on enhancing technical-level engagement to accelerate progress on agreed items.

Prime Minister Sharif also emphasized the importance of direct air connectivity for boosting business linkages, people-to-people contacts, and tourism. He underlined that Pakistan’s Special Economic Zones were open for Kazakh investors.

He also invited Kazakhstan to benefit from Gwadar and Karachi ports for expanding their trade.

Moreover, PM Sharif highlighted the importance of promoting connectivity in the region and reiterated Pakistan’s readiness to provide Tajikistan access to Gwadar and Karachi ports.

The PM also met Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and emphasized the need for expansion of cooperation in the fields of road transport and air links. It was agreed to work together for early completion of the CASA-1000 project.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2022

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