Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Tuesday that terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, should be condemned in “clear and unambiguous terms”.
He made the remarks while addressing the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) virtual summit hosted by India. Russia and China were also among the other countries attending the meeting.
“SCO member states have a shared interest in ensuring peace and stability in the region, which is a precondition for economic development anywhere in the world.
“The Hydra-headed monster of terrorism and extremism — whether committed by individuals, societies or states — must be fought by full vigor and conviction. Any temptation to use it as a cudgel for diplomatic point-scoring must be avoided under all circumstances,” he said.
“Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including state terrorism, must be condemned in clear and unambiguous terms. There can be no justification for the killing of innocent people regardless of the cause or pretext.”
The premier went on to say that religious minorities should not be demonised in the “pursuit of domestic political agendas”.
While PM Shehbaz did not refer to any specifics in his speech, his remarks come as activists say persecution and hate speech against religious minorities, especially Muslims, in India have accelerated since Narendra Modi came into power.
In his speech, PM Shehbaz noted that while the sacrifices made by Pakistan in fighting the scourge of terrorism were without a parallel, the phenomenon continued to plague the region and was a “serious obstacle” to peace and stability.
“SCO countries must take concerted and immediate actions, both in their national and collective capacity, […] to combat the three evils of terrorism, extremism and separatism,” he said, adding that achieving lasting peace in the region was a common concern as well as the responsibility of all SCO leaders.
PM calls for world to ‘meaningfully’ engage with Afghanistan
PM Shehbaz further said that stability in Afghanistan was critical for achieving this “common objective”, noting that the world was currently at a “standstill” with the war-torn country.
“The cascade of unmet expectations has meant that critical support needed by Afghanistan to ward off a great humanitarian crisis, prevent an economic meltdown and to combat terrorism has been withheld.
“This policy needs an urgent reset. The international community should meaningfully engage with the interim Afghan government to take the next steps.
“Similarly, the interim Afghan government must also take concrete measures to ensure its soil is not used for terrorism by any entity. A peaceful and stable Afghan will not only bring economic dividends to the Afghan people but will also unlock the true economic potential of the SCO region as well as contribute to global peace, security and progress,” he said.
He said that the SCO Afghanistan contact group had an important role to play in providing a platform for practical cooperation.
‘Fundamental rights should be guaranteed for all’
At one point in his speech, the prime minister noted that to achieve the goal of sustainable peace, fundamental rights and freedoms should be guaranteed for all, including those “under occupation”.
“Peace and communal harmony should replace violent, ultra-nationalism and xenophobic ideologies, especially Islamophobia.”
He said that the SCO should oppose divisive policies based on prejudice and discrimination. “There should be no place for willful provocations, and incitement to hatred, especially on religious grounds.
“The SCO stands for observance of the UN principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and the people’s right to self-determination,” he said.
He went on to say that the UN principles offered a workable framework for the resolution of “long-standing disputes” in the region.
“These must be addressed immediately and settled amicably before its too late,” PM Shehbaz said.
‘SCO meeting at critical juncture’
At the outset of his speech, PM Shehbaz said that the SCO members were meeting at a “very critical juncture” where important developments were taking place in the socio-economic and security sphere.
“In this era of global geopolitical flux, the SCO has acquired added significance as a beacon of stability, security, peace and progress. The fundamental values of the Shanghai spirit are more relevant now than ever before.”
He said that connectivity had become a defining feature in the modern global economy, adding that it was rightly hailed as a vehicle for peace and prosperity. Talking about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said that the project could be a “game changer” for connectivity and prosperity in the region.
“Pakistan’s location serves as a natural bridge, connecting Europe and Central Asia with China, South Asia and the Middle East,” he said, adding that special economic zones under CPEC could also serve as convenient conduits for promoting regional trade.
In a later tweet, PM Shehbaz reiterated many of his points and also said that he asked the international community to “act upon their assurances by providing support to developing countries in mitigating and adapting to the ill effects of climate change”.
Earlier in the day, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the SCO should join hands to fight terrorism and not hesitate to condemn countries that support terror.
Modi also urged leaders of the Eurasian political and security grouping to work for the welfare of Afghanistan and provide humanitarian aid to Kabul.
Afghan soil, Modi told the virtual summit of SCO leaders, should not be allowed to be used to destabilise its neighbourhood.
Ahead of the summit, the Foreign Office said PM Shehbaz’s participation “illustrates the high importance that Pakistan attaches to the SCO, as an important forum for regional security and prosperity, and enhanced engagement with the region”.
Additional input by Reuters