ISLAMABAD: Taking a veiled dig at India, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi emphasised that terrorism-related allegations must not be used as a political tool to malign and victimise any country or religion
“However tackling terrorism and extremism must continue to be a priority,” said Qureshi while participating in the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) Video-Conference convened by the Russian Federation in its capacity as current chair of SCO on Wednesday.
He called on the international community to condemn and hold accountable the perpetrators of state terrorism, including against people under illegal occupation. “This meeting coincides with the 75th anniversary of victory against fascism, militarism and violent nationalism, and the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations (UN),” he said, adding that the UN is currently facing among the most serious stress tests to its efficacy.
Pakistan, he said, considers SCO an important platform to foster regional cooperation for peace, security, connectivity and socio-economic development, while rejecting xenophobic ideologies including Islamophobia.
The minister gave five proposals on how to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides Pakistan, the meeting was attended by foreign ministers of all member states, the secretary-general SCO, and director of the executive committee of the SCO Regional Anti-terrorist Structure.
In his remarks, the foreign minister pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic posed a challenge of unprecedented scale and magnitude to humanity that necessitated coordinated responses.
“The crisis was a litmus test for multilateralism, and the SCO was well equipped to tackle it,” he said, while specifically praising China’s responsible handling of the crisis and its leading role in assisting the international community. He also expressed gratitude for China’s assistance to Pakistan.
Apart from the prevailing pandemic situation, matters relating to peace and security in the region including Afghanistan came under discussion. As a means to support the economically vulnerable segments of society, the minister underlined Pakistan’s proposal for the creation of the SCO Experts Group on Poverty Alleviation, as well as setting up the Centre of Excellence on Poverty. Qureshi also stressed the need for SCO to reject stigmatisation and discrimination of any community in the context of COVID-19 on the basis of race, religion, or ethnicity.
“In a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 virus has spread like wild-fire, overwhelming communities and health systems, devouring scarce resources, consuming precious lives, and paralysing economies and businesses the world over,” said Qureshi.
He added that nothing of this scale and magnitude has been witnessed in a century. An estimated 4.1 million have been infected and nearly 300,000 have fallen prey to the deadly pathogen, and within days, the world that was known and understood went through a radical transformation, said the foreign minister.
“COVID-19 continues to assault lives and livelihoods, and paralyse civilisation,” said the foreign minister. “On this somber occasion, I wish to offer heartfelt condolences on the on-going losses. Our travails are common, and our grief is shared. May I also acknowledge with appreciation, the initiative by the Russian Federation to convene this timely meeting,” the minister stated.
He went on to suggest the following at the SCO meeting. “Firstly, at a normative level, we must acknowledge the primacy of principles of international law and centrality of the UN and its agencies. In the context of COVID-19, there must be no discrimination against any segment of society on religious, racial or ethnic grounds, nor should any community be stigmatised and targeted.
“Secondly, to share best practices and learn from each other’s experience, there should be frequent and regular interaction among our ministries of health. “Thirdly, we should develop mechanisms for pooling scientific and technical resources for joint research on a vaccine and possible cure for the virus.
“Fourthly, SCO countries should exchange views and perspectives on supporting the economically vulnerable sections of society. Pakistan’s proposal for the establishment of an SCO Joint Working Group on Poverty Alleviation and Centre of Excellence merits consideration.
“Finally, we should enhance further cooperation between our hospitals and laboratories and work on formalising the SCO Hospital Alliance.”
The minister briefed the SCO foreign ministers on Pakistan’s coordinated response to COVID-19 covering the public health as well as the economic aspects of the crisis. The minister observed that even though infections were spreading, Pakistan had seen relatively low fatalities. However, he added that there was no room to let our guard down.