ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday stressed greater connectivity among the Asian countries for their mutual development and prosperity.
Addressing the sixth plenary of Asian Parliamentary Assembly(APA), the Prime Minister said the Asian countries had to shed the burden of the past and learn to look to the future.
The APA hosted by Senate of Pakistan, was attended by nearly 300 delegates from 30 countries. Prime Minister Sharif said Pakistan had tried to turn a new page with its neighbours and was prepared to look at the larger picture. He said the country had reached out to both Afghanistan and India.
“While Pakistan may succeed on its own and through its own endeavors, the success will be quicker, greater, and more sustainable if it is underwritten by the entire region moving together,” he said.
He said in an Asian century, an opportunity would be witnessed for South Asia to join the other Asian engines such as China and the ASEAN.
He said Pakistan was proud to host the Asian Parliamentary Assembly, one of the most important parliamentary events in the world. He mentioned that the Assembly was established in Islamabad in 2004 when the Association of Asian Parliaments for Peace decided to transform itself into the Asian Parliamentary Assembly.
He expressed satisfaction over the commonalities in APA and Pakistan’s ideals concerning strengthening democracy, peace, development, regional cooperation, security and well-being of the people across the Asian continent.
The Prime Minister said the theme for this Assembly was particularly relevant – Asian Century: Cooperation in Economy, Energy and the Environment. He said the theme had a particular resonance for Pakistan.
He said Pakistan underwent a historic political transition earlier this year and one popularly elected government succeeded another popularly elected government in free, fair and transparent elections.
He said the country’s parliament had emerged ever stronger on account of this transition and added that “We rejoice that this Parliament is today playing host to representatives of its sister parliaments from across Asia.”
Nawaz Sharif said the parliament was now working to address the challenges confronting the country and had forged a national consensus on how best to address the threat of terrorism and to rejuvenate the economy.
He said achieving this goal was essentially tied to the urgent need to address the crippling energy crisis and the government was striving on war-footing to combat the energy deficiency, attract foreign investment, mobilize domestic resource and jump-start economic growth.
The Prime Minister expressed confidence that the regional parliamentary forums such as APA can play the role of a lynchpin to generate joint strategies to effectively deal with the critical issues of energy, growth and environment, which are common to the most of the Asia.
He said the APA was an excellent opportunity for legislatures across Asia to connect with each other and learn from each other’s experiences.
He said there was an important dimension of sharing notes on issues specific to the working of legislatures – agenda setting, budget making, drafting and even harmonizing legislation, committee structures and mandates. He said an equally important aspect of this interaction was bringing the peoples of the member countries closer. He said parliamentary meetings and exchanges are among the best avenues available to promote trust and understanding among countries and peoples.
He said parliamentarians have a finger on the pulse of their constituents and they know the priorities of their voters.
“And I can assure you as an elected representative, that the people of Pakistan seek nothing more than peace, both within Pakistan and with all of Pakistan’s neighbours,” he said.
Nawaz Sharif said the people of Pakistan want safety, security and stability and seek an environment that rewards hard work and protects the fruits of their labour.
The Prime Minister deliberated on Asia’s progress and said the region was moving to reclaim its rightful place in the world.
He gave the reference of Asian Development Bank which stated that Asia’s per capita income could rise six-fold in purchasing power parity terms to reach European levels by 2050. By the same year, Asia could double its share of the global GDP. If all goes well, and Asia manages its growth properly and with equity, there will be no poor Asian countries left by 2050.
He said Pakistan was at next door to two of the world’s biggest markets – China and India. He said the country was also the geographical knot tying three of the most important regions of the world together – South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East.
He said Pakistan brings more than three billion people together and was working on realizing the gains of this connectivity.
“We are developing an ambitious North-South Economic Corridor from China down to the Arabian Sea, linking the vast spaces and untapped wealth and resources of Central Asia and China’s heartland to the international economic mainstream. This corridor will be a conduit for energy and goods,” he said.
He mentioned other projects including Turkmenistan- Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline and Central Asia South Asia (CASA) 1000.
” I firmly believe in the Asian century. I also believe that this will happen earlier and last longer, if South Asia also makes its proper contribution to this development.”
The Prime Minister appreciated the efforts of Senate of Pakistan, for managing the event in such a proficient manner.