During this past week, Pakistan took a giant leap forward in its formidable history of parliamentary diplomacy. This was done through the organisation of a first ever speakers conference, in which representatives for major regional players took part. This included the speaker of the Wolisi Jirga from Afghanistan, the speaker of the Shoora-e-Islamic from Iran, Chairman of the State Duma from Russia, speaker of the Grand Turkish Assembly and Vice Chairman of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China. They were present in Islamabad for two days, debating on subjects of mutual interest including threats from terrorism, inter-regional connectivity and cooperation in areas of thematic focus of the moot.
The conference was organised with the theme ‘the challenges of terrorism and inter-regional connectivity’. It was termed as a milestone in the options to build the parliamentary cooperation to foster the consolidation of the existing 20 percent of the richest resources in the entire region. The conference was held in the backdrop of the current wave of tension in the international world order, wherein the US has been widely criticised and sidelined for taking a callous standpoint over the Israel-Palestine conflict for moving ahead with plans for recognising Jerusalem as the legal capital of Israel and moving its embassy to the city. There has been uproar from across the world denouncing this illegal step. The forum was also held at a time when Pakistan’s relations with the US are at their lowest ever ebb. Consequently the representatives from Pakistan including the Speaker of the National Assembly and Chairman of the Senate minced no words in criticising the US approach towards the region and especially Pakistan. As Pakistan is settling in the new addition to the formidable and powerful regional grouping of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the moot is another towards the right direction by Pakistan in building harmony towards the regional players to help build much needed space in the region.
This Speakers Conference is the brainchild of Pakistan National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq who had envisioned and proposed such a joint Conference of heads of Parliament of six countries during his meeting with counterparts at the “second meeting of the Eurasian Parliament speakers” held in June this year in Seoul. The vision of such a joint meeting was to explore the avenues of cooperation in building peace and unity among the participating nations hence to develop a forum for dialogue. The event was also meant not only for dialogue but also to build connectivity and consolidating people to people contact. The aim was also to expand the horizon for cooperation in areas including but not limited to banking, energy, trade, tourism, commerce, joint strategy against terrorism and other socio-economic challenges.
One must not mince words in recognising and appreciating the efforts of National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq and role that Senator Raza Rabbani has played in the promotion of the Parliament at the national and international forums, hence increasing the respect and integrity of Pakistan’s movement towards democracy in a dignified manner
The basic idea to promote the multilateral ties in various dimensions through joint research, sharing of ideas and creating an active forum for businessmen, academia and traders for building peace, dialogue and sustainable development for the six nations. Often geographically termed as the ‘gold ring’, these six countries of the region hold a significant place in the political and economic world order and this conference was a watershed moment in these countries’ histories. The conference is historic in terms of the fact that the new dimension of diplomacy is taking the lead in building collective alliance in addressing the issues. This is a unique initiative and may be considered as path breaking towards developing harmony amongst the nations in order to remove misperceptions hence convergences towards finding indigenous solutions to these challenges. Building on the earlier meetings, the conference will be able to engage countries in a meaningful dialogue for continuous connections hence enhanced connectivity of the people of the states.
The Gold Ring countries are naturally connected. History shows that they have a shared ancestry, similarity in cultural, traditions, values based on the relationships built on the historic trade and commerce through the ancient Silk route. This Gold Ring is home to a quarter of humanity. It has large deposits of natural resources. Half of the world’s cotton is produced by China and Pakistan but despite having such closeness there is not much of an actual realisation in terms of trade and commerce, a linchpin towards the idea of unity.
The overall mutual trade between all six countries is a mere two per cent of the over global trade volume. There is still no proper connection between the states or airlines that fly frequently to each other’s countries hence building bridges for trade, tourism and lastly there is not an encouraging signs for enhancing the environment for understanding as there are still lack of proper language institutions that help build further the chances for people to people contacts and dialogue. We are, as Sardar Ayaz Sadiq has put it in his speech “a classic picture of lost opportunities and ignored potential”. This is the time to realise these potentials and find the opportunities in challenges and address the challenges that hinders such developments. The conference is one such step in the right direction towards managing the entire connection and putting hands together for the shared destiny of development and prosperity.
At the end of the Conference, a final ‘Islamabad Declaration’ was adopted wherein the Speakers from the six nations, have endorsed the significance of peace, development and connectivity among the conference participating states. Representative of the Parliaments during the conference endorsed the diversity, interconnectedness, challenges, opportunities at regional and global level, besides endorsing the work in cooperation to reject the hegemonic approach or use of force, promoting equality amongst all the nations of the world. Utilising forums like these and the revolutionary and emerging cooperation forum Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and Eurasian Economic Union and others, the multilateral forums hold significance. These forum provide impetus to the nations to establish linkages among their likeminded counterparts to find solutions to their own challenges.
The speakers while endorsing the Belt and Road Initiative, also highlighted the need to join hands to counter the challenges related to terrorism in all of its forms and manifestation by recognising the fact that terrorism has no religion, nationality or belong to any cultural and ethnic group.
It was loud and clear during the conference that the People’s Representative have endorsed the fact that unless and until the issues related to Kashmir and the just solution to the conflict in middle east, there will not be any lasting peace in the world. The participants of the moot condemned the decision, actions which purported to alter the character and the status of the demographic composition of the holy city of Jerusalem. Finally, in order to have the regular interactions at the highest level, the conference is aimed to be organised annually, and the next conference will take place in Tehran, Capital of Iran in the coming year.
One must not mince words in recognising and appreciating the efforts of National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq and role that Senator Raza Rabbani has played in the promotion of the Parliament at the national and international forums, hence increasing the respect and integrity of Pakistan’s movement towards democracy in a dignified manner. We have seen the establishments of Friendship Groups between Pakistan and the world within the National Assembly during Mr Sadiq’s presence while Senator Rabbani has taken several key initiatives and standpoints in bringing the upfront approach of the upper house, which it has always deserved. We may differ with their political affiliations and views but we cannot shy away from their overall performances towards the promotion of Pakistan’s image world and beyond. Such forums always play significant role in promotion of the growth and togetherness of the states especially the economic complementarities among the countries and respective region. Since these Speakers were resenting the People’s will in their respective parliaments hence the voices, endorsements, concerns, aims and aspiration is truly reflective of people of the entire region therefore making this forum as powerful and impactful moots ever happened.