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Your Excellency, Mr.Sergei Lavrov
Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation,

Secretary General, SCO
Distinguished Ministers, Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a matter of great pleasure for me to participate in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Special Conference on Afghanistan. I wish to thank Your Excellency, Foreign Minister Lavrov, for taking this timely initiative and hosting this important conference in Moscow.

Ever since the inception of the Shanghai process, over a decade ago, Pakistan has keenly observed SCO’s evolution and expansion. In a relatively short time, SCO has transformed itself into an important platform for building confidence, strengthening stability, and promoting economic development across the Eurasian region. We deeply appreciate the role that China and Russia have played in this profound transformation.

Pakistanattaches great importance to its association with SCO. We have a strong commitment to the Organization’s principles and objectives and wish to deepen our partnership with it. Indeed, we look forward to the day of our full accession.

Meanwhile, Pakistan would like to have optimal participation in SCO’s frameworks for greater economic integration, including customs cooperation, energy development, transport facilitation, and investment promotion. We wish to be associated with SCO’s Regional Counter-Terrorism Structures (RCTS) as well. Pakistan would also work to forge closer inter-regional links, as President Asif Ali Zardari urged ECO-SCO cooperation at the ECO Summit in Tehran recently.

SCO has correctly identified terrorism, extremism, narcotics and trans-border organized crime as grave challenges confronting regional security.

Pakistanbelieves that SCO’s normative framework based on the principles of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual trust, equality, deference to diversity and a common aspiration for development offer the right perspective for durable stability in the greater SCO region.

Afghanistanis Pakistan’s close friend and immediate neighbour. For decades, Afghanistan has suffered from the ravages of war and civil strife. The brotherly people of Afghanistan have been the victims of instability, violence, terrorism, factional fighting, illegal arms, narcotics production and trafficking, and organized crime. This vicious cycle has had a disastrous effect on the Afghan economy, infrastructure, and society.

Pakistanhas also suffered grievously along with Afghanistan. Due to the spill over, our people have had to face phenomena which did not exist in our society before — the so-called ‘Kalashnikov culture’, drugs, militancy, and terrorism.

Pakistanhas been host to the world’s largest refugee population, with all its attendant consequences. Three decades later, we still continue to pick up the pieces. The security forces and the people of Pakistan continue to render tremendous sacrifices in addressing these formidable challenges.

We believe it is imperative to turn a new page in Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan deserve better. They deserve peace. They deserve security, stability and progress. They deserve strong institutions, effective governance, meaningful reconstruction, and sustainable economic development.

This is an imposing agenda. But we are confident that this is possible with the wisdom, sagacity and commitment of the Afghan leadership to rebuild their country through united efforts and to ensure that Afghanistan takes its rightful place in the comity of nations.
This is possible also with sustained and long-term engagement of the international community with Afghanistan. This is possible with a comprehensive approach that simultaneously addresses the security, political, economic, and reconstruction challenges.

This is possible with substantial commitment of resources. This is possible with all of Afghanistan’s neighbours, regional countries, major powers, and international organizations, acting in concert to advance the shared goals.

For Pakistan, there is no greater priority than having a peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan. We are convinced that security, today, is indivisible. That a secure Afghanistan — at peace with itself and with its neighbours — would have a discernible effect on our security and the regional environment.

For our part, the resolve of the Pakistani nation and our leadership to fight militancy and terrorism is inflinchible. We are making determined efforts to stabilize the situation on the Pakistan – Afghanistan border. In this context, we appreciate the international community’s support in strengthening our counter-terrorism capacity and advancing the development goals in the area.

We are conscious that Pakistan has a central role in facilitating the stabilization process in Afghanistan, and we remain deeply committed to this goal. Indeed, our democratic Government has worked assiduously to bring about a qualitative transformation in our relations with Afghanistan. There is a new level of trust.

We have concluded a Declaration on Future Directions of Bilateral Cooperation. We have agreed to cooperate closely in the fight against terrorism and narcotics.

Pakistanwill continue to lend all possible assistance for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. We would shortly be hosting the third Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) in Islamabad.

There is now a growing realization that military measures can at best yield only limited results. In our view, a long-term solution requires a holistic approach that puts premium on development and national reconciliation through dialogue. It is time to commence these crucial processes.

It is also time to recognize that terrorism has roots across the region. The strategy to deal with this menace, therefore, has to be regional — based on consensus. The regional countries must work together to halt the free flow of weapons, drugs, and money through some verifiable mechanism.

We believe that Russia and China, two leading nations of the world, have an important role to play in shaping a regional consensus on stabilizing the Afghan situation. All states contiguous to Afghanistan have to be on-board.

Pakistancalls upon everyone to seek common ground. On the basis of mutual respect, benefit and interests, let us work towards a regional compact.

We suggest a regional Compact, that must:

One Be based on accepted norms of international conduct, enshrined in the charters of the UN and SCO. Principles of non-interference, respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty should be strictly adhered to in letter and spirit by all.

Two Facilitate, with full support of SCO Member States and Afghanistan’s neighbours, an Afghan-led process of national reconciliation based on genuine dialogue, with those local elements willing to forsake the path of violence.

ThreePrioritize the policy of persuasion to win the battle for hearts and minds and adopt approaches that respect the faith, culture, customs and traditions of local populations.

Four Undertake a massive Reconstruction Plan for Afghanistan, focusing on reconstruction and social welfare with participation of all stakeholders. Capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces must be enhanced. Conditions be created for the safe return of Afghan refugees with dignity and honour. To push forward the development and capacity building agenda, China and Russia must play a major role.

Five Revitalize the trans-regional development agenda. Afghanistan’s potential as a land bridge must be realized by promoting infrastructure and energy connectivity.

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies,
It is said that the 21st century is the century of Asia. This places greater responsibility on us to craft regional solutions to regional problems. Pakistan envisions a peaceful, stable, prosperous and thriving region — a region fully interconnected through networks of rails and roads, energy pipelines and electricity grids. Where local populations enjoy fruits of socioeconomic development, and the hallmark of which are moderation, tolerance and diversity. Let us act now. Let us collectively chart that future.

Thank you.

27 March 2009

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