PRIME Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi speaking at the Council of Heads of Government of the SCO at Sochi rightly remarked that SCO held tremendous potential for connectivity, trade, energy and economic development and Pakistan was all set to bring more vitality to the organization as it possessed great potential for global and regional trade as well economic activities. Pakistan with a consumer market of over 200 million people, vast business potential and a rapidly developing infrastructure, did offer the SCO enormous opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation and fulfilling the vision of the SCO. Abbassi was right on money to say that CPEC complimented the SCO vision of connectivity and economic integration and Pakistan wanted to see it connected to the six main trade corridors of the SCO as it would help in fulfilling the long-cherished aspiration for land and maritime connectivity between Europe, Central Asia , China and South Asia.
The SCO apart from ensuring regional connectivity promises to build a just and rational world order based on the UN Charter principles of respect for international law and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs besides using its collective potential and resources to eliminate the scourge of terrorism from the region and playing a significant role in bringing peace to Afghanistan which was also indispensable for peace in Pakistan. It is an irrefutable reality that Pakistan had suffered the most in the war against terrorism as a front line state having lost thousands of lives including 6500 military and law enforcement personnel and losses of $ 120 billion to the economy. Nevertheless the civil and military leadership of the country undeterred by the odds was determined to take the fight against terrorism to its logical end because it was fully aware of the threats posed by terrorism, separatism and extremism to the regional and global development.
The success of the dream of regional connectivity and shared economic prosperity was inextricably linked to peace in Afghanistan. Therefore, Pakistan would be the last country to wish the continuation of conflict there. It has made relentless efforts in the past to promote and support Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation in Afghanistan which unfortunately were overtaken by the revelation about Mullah Umar’s death and later the killing of Mullah Mansoor on the Pakistani soil. However Pakistan was still prepared to be part of any regional and global effort to facilitate solution to the Afghan conflict. Prime Minister Abbassi reiterated “We are vigilant and will not allow any form of militancy on our soil. Pakistan is fully committed to eliminating the evil of terrorism. Pakistan desires an early return of peace stability and prosperity to its brotherly country Afghanistan and further deepening of cooperation within the new consultative format of ‘ SCO—Afghanistan Contact Group’. The objective of this format should be to support Afghanistan’s efforts for peaceful and political settlement through dialogue and combating security and terrorism threats to Afghanistan and the region. Pakistan will be happy to contribute to SCO’s efforts towards building a stable and prosperous Afghanistan”.
Nobody in his right mind could take an issue with what the Prime Minister said. But no effort in this regard could succeed unless pursued with sincerity of purpose bereft of political considerations, marked with the spirit of reciprocity. It is most unfortunate that while the Prime Minister was reiterating Pakistan’s commitment and resolve to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan, a terrorist attack was launched on Directorate of Agriculture in Peshawar which according to ISPR was executed by the terrorists based in Afghanistan.
This was not the first attack launched on the Pakistani soil from the Afghan territory. Unfortunately the Afghan government and the US military have failed to take reciprocal measures to prevent the cross-border movement of the terrorists through effective border management and eliminating safe havens of TTP operatives on the Afghan territory and instead they continue to indulge in a blame-game accusing Pakistan of providing safe havens to terrorists who were carrying out terrorist acts in Afghanistan. Both the Afghan government and US must realize that no solution to the Afghan conundrum was possible without Pakistan and to enlist its unqualified support there was an imperative need to remove the ambience of mistrust if their aims really was to bring peace to Afghanistan and the region.
However my considered view is that the US was going to stay in Afghanistan to pursue its objective of keeping the region in turmoil for the achievement of its strategic interests in the region with Indian support. US is propping up India as a counter-balance against the burgeoning Chinese influence in the region and beyond and views the success of CPEC as potential threat to her strategic interests. Peace and stability in the region would surely act as a catalyst to the success of the Chinese initiative. Therefore the US would do everything possible not to let that happen. Pakistan will have to evolve a long term strategy to safeguard its strategic interests and fight against terrorism keeping in view the likely emerging scenario. Under the circumstances SCO offered a credible counter-balance to the negative fallout of the US-India nexus in thwarting the CPEC and fighting the phenomenon of terrorism and extremism which had affected almost all the members of the SCO. Being member of the SCO was important for Pakistan not only from the perspective of regional connectivity and shared economic prosperity but also to neutralise the threats to her security and dealing with US highhandedness in back-drop of new policy on Afghanistan and South Asia announced by President Trump.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.
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