ISLAMABAD: Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq on Monday called for joint efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and ameliorate the lot of people in South Asian region.
“It is imperative for the government in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation to focus on measure to meet MDGs and join hands to steer people out of poverty, poor health and education and improve environment,” the Speaker said, addressing the first session of 7th conference of the Association of SAARC Speakers and parliamentarians held in Maldives.
In his keynote address on the topic `Democracy and Inclusive Development – Achieving SAARC MDGs,’ the Speaker said, democracy is a process which envisages a meaningful political representation for ensuring, across-the-board economic redistribution, availability of opportunities and gender mainstreaming.
He said that inclusive, equitable and sustainable development lies at heart of participatory democracy in any country. “Amidst serious challenges of global terrorism, economic and political strife, the respective democratic institutions have managed to hold grounds and have in fact given way to fast-maturing political cultures.”
The Speaker said, recent peaceful transitions of power in countries like Pakistan, Bhutan and the Maldives was evidence of the power of ballot, where through an unprecedented number of voters’ turnout, the electorate decided their fate.
He reminded that the SAARC countries further made a commitment to inclusive development at the 13th SAARC Summit in Dhakka in 2005 where political leadership inked the 22 SAARC Development Goals regarding livelihood, health, education and environment. However, very little has been heard of these targets during last seven years.
Ayaz Sadiq stressed the need for concerted efforts for narrowing gap between the promise and the performance which is an anathema to the ideals of a meaningful democracy.
He said that SAARC member states have shown impressive gains wherein the region has experienced a robust collective economic growth; averaging six percent a year over the past 20 years and the real GDP growth in the region was recorded at 5.8 percent in 2012.
The Speaker noted that these are the very indicators, which have a tangible and daily impact on people’s lives and sadly on these accounts we are stumbling that call for joint collaboration through SAARC platform for achieving the identified goals.
The Speaker said that Pakistan was taking strong realization of those commitments, the previous National Assembly made history by enacting the highest number of pro-women bills.
He said that soon after his election as Speaker, he ensured reactivation of Women’s Parliamentary Caucus for continuity of the past best practices by rising above any political bias or discrimination. The BISP, which has come out as the largest cash assistance scheme in the world, has not only been fully retained by the new democratic government but was provided with additional resources in the fiscal year 2013-2014.
He described the recently launched Prime Minister’s Youth Programme in Pakistan as a fine example of providing choices to the nation’s future, which aims at building new entrepreneurship by offering soft loans worth billions of rupees.
He said that the idea of a parliamentary oversight on the pace of attainment of the MDGs has also been further strengthened in the newly elected House, whereby a national parliamentary task force has been constituted with a mandate to include and engage all provincial legislatures on this critical subject.
“We are standing at the cross-roads of a historical transformation. The South Asian democracies must realize that they do not confront `poverty of resources’ and their challenge is `poverty of opportunities,” he added.