ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Wednesday apprised his counterparts from the Commonwealth states of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), saying that the project was fast reaching fruition to make Pakistan a regional hub for economic activity.
Addressing the Extraordinary Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers' Meeting (CFAMM) in London, the foreign minister said that a civil government in Pakistan transferred power to the next elected government after completing its five-year tenure.
"The third general elections were held in July 2018 and true democracy was ushered in as a result, as compared to many other Muslim countries," he said. "The 2018 elections are declared free and transparent by the European Union and the Commonwealth," he added.
Qureshi explained that the CPEC was providing a platform for regional development, increase in productivity rate and prosperity. He added that Pakistan would welcome partnership of Commonwealth in special economic zones on the CPEC route.
The meeting was convened to mark the 70th anniversary of the London Declaration, which marked the creation of the Commonwealth of Nations. It was chaired by the UK in its capacity as the current chair-in-office.
The ministers discussed matters of collective interest and deliberated on the role of Commonwealth in economic development, governance and social development to realise the shared vision of a fairer, a more prosperous, a more sustainable and a more secure future.
Qureshi said that after the restoration of its membership in 2008, Pakistan had taken many positive and long lasting steps. He stressed that Pakistan's National Development Strategy, Vision 2025, remained fully aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
"Prime Minister Imran Khan's government has recently launched a comprehensive programme for poverty alleviation called Ehsas that will focus on areas hit by the Afghan war," the foreign minister said.
He informed the meeting that Pakistan had given refuge to 2.7 million Afghans, which is a huge number, compared to refugees all over the world. As far as the movement from one country to another was concerned, he added, Pakistan supported only legal movement.
"Ehsas has been initiated to eliminate poverty and assist the weak class and promote workforce power," he said, adding that a health programme named "Sehat Sahoolat programme" had been initiated so that the needy persons could be provided healthcare.
Reiterating Pakistan's commitment to deliver on the vision of the Commonwealth, Qureshi dilated on steps taken towards building sustainable institutions and inclusive society, internalising good governance and mainstreaming gender parity.
Qureshi told his counterparts from the Commonwealth states that rule of law, eradication of corruption, economic development and social justice were key priorities of the Pakistan government for a long-term and sustainable growth.
Speaking on the gender equality, the minister informed the meeting that there was an ever-growing number of Pakistani women entering workforce and the government had introduced legislation to protect their rights and their economic and social empowerment.
"The representation of women in civil service, law and other departments has increased to a great extent," he said. "The women representation in Parliament is also high with 68 seats in the National Assembly and 18 seats in the Senate and 139 in the provincial assemblies," he added.
"Pakistan is cognisant of its human rights obligations and takes its commitment to the minorities very seriously," Qureshi said. "A 5% quota has been allocated for the minorities, while the 11th of August is observed as the minority's day," he added.
Giving an overview of economic reforms, Qureshi stated that Pakistan believed in people-centric development. He also highlighted the government's special focus on youth and the various programmes that have been started for economic uplift.
Qureshi briefed the delegates on Pakistan's successful fight against extremism and terrorism and the measures taken by the government against hate speech, violent extremism, money laundering and terror financing.
He said Pakistan was treading in a difficult situation and believed in trade, investment and communication. He added that with a population of more than 200 million, Pakistan was a rising economy.
He said that 65% of the population comprised youth. He added that a national youth council had been formed in which loans have been given to the youth through a special programme so that "the youth can start business and promote their skills".
He said that in view of the dangers faced due to the environmental changes, Pakistan had completed a billion-tree programme successfully in which afforestation on 300,000 hectare area has been carried out.
To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Commonwealth, the minister announced the issuance of a commemorative postage stamp by Pakistan as an expression of solidarity with the organisation.
The foreign minister also interacted with the foreign ministers of other Commonwealth countries. Pakistan is one of the founding members of the Commonwealth. The CFAMM mechanism was established to provide political oversight and guidance for implementation of mandates agreed by leaders in the period between Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGMs).