“Democracy in Pakistan is being strengthened...our country will emerge as one of the most important in the region over the next five years,” President Mamnoon Hussain said at the closing ceremony of the South Asian Labour Conference on Friday.
The Pakistan-China Economic Corridor will usher in an era of prosperity and development in the region, he said. “Today is a day of great hope...a day that marks the beginning of an era of mutual cooperation to improve the quality of lives of millions of people of South Asia.”
He said the South Asia Labour Conference had not only brought together like-minded people to discuss issues pertaining to labour and various other thematic areas of the conference, but also those who believed in transforming talks into action.
“South Asia is united by common values. We stand together in support of major challenges faced by the region, such as, choosing peace over conflict, democracy over dictatorship, justice over tyranny, and tolerance over bigotry. For decades, Pakistan has been home to those who have sought refuge from regional conflicts. We have endured the world’s worst natural calamities. We have fought and continue to fight extremism and poverty, and we believe that the right to a decent living is fundamental to human values.”
The president said that he was very pleased with the joint statement drafted at the conference that commits the governments to upholding the rights of workers.
Sharing knowledge of best practices among the SAARC countries could be an effective instrument to develop human resource – the region’s most valuable asset – only then could the region fully compete with the rest of the world and alleviate poverty in South Asia, the president said.
He said the government had an unwavering commitment to resolve labour issues and uphold the principles that ensure workers’ dignity and adequate wages so that they prosper and can progress socially and economically.
The president congratulated the government of the Punjab and the delegates for their initiative. He also thanked the European Union and the International Labour Organisation for their support in organising the conference. The president thanked participants from the governments of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh for joining the conference and sharing their perspective on labour issues and thematic areas.
He said the provincial labour policy is slated to be launched on May 1. This would be a gift to the workers of the Punjab and will aim towards providing fair opportunities. “I hope that concrete measures will be taken under the policy to address the various issues faced by the labour community.”
He noted that it was imperative to ensure compliance with international labour and social standards. He requested businessmen to work with the government to make their businesses socially compliant. “Our mission must be not only to create jobs but to lift millions out of the poverty trap.” The president said that he hoped the initiative would continue and that another South Asian country would host the conference next year. “It is our unyielding faith, that despite difficulties, people can bring real change. Let us join hands and strive to turn the tide.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2014.