Developing-8 summit convenes amidst security threats in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: The eighth summit of the Developing-8 countries, aimed at enhancing trade and cooperation between the member states began here Thursday at the President House.
The heads of state and government of the D-8 member states including Turkey, Malaysia, Iran, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nigeria, Egypt and the host country Pakistan are participating in the summit on the theme ‘Democratic partnership for peace and prosperity’.
The summit started in Islamabad a day after militant attacks killed 36 people across the country in some of the deadliest violence claimed by the Taliban for months.
Twenty-three people were killed and 62 wounded overnight in Rawalpindi, the twin city of summit venue Islamabad, where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan were among the summit guests.
“It seems the new breed of religious zealots wanted to tell the D8 dignitaries all about the mess the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has been turned into,” said the country’s independent human rights commission in a statement.
But Pakistan has been determined that Thursday’s Developing Eight summit will present a different image of the country as it gathers together Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Nigeria, Malaysia, Turkey and Pakistan to promote trade.
The leaders that joined the event included Iranian President Mahmood Ahmedinejad, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, Egyptian Deputy President Mahmoud Makki, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Bangladeshi Advisor to Prime Minister for International Affairs Professor Gowher Rizvi.
The event was opened by the Nigerian President being the outgoing chairperson of the D-8. President Zardari assumed the chairmanship of D-8 as the Nigerian President handed over the seat to him.
Earlier, President Zardari received the leaders as they arrived at the Presidency.
Pakistan Peoples Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and the President’s daughter Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari also greeted the dignitaries.
Zardari urges D-8 countries to work for regional development
President Asif Ali Zardari emphasised the need for better cooperation among the members of the D-8 and called upon them to work sincerely for finding the development solutions for their one billion people with focus on encouraging the free flow of goods, free flow of peoples and free flow of finances.
Addressing the inaugural session of the summit on the theme of “Democratic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity, the president said that presence of the heads of state and government of D-8 countries today reflects collective determination to use this platform for finding solutions.
President Zardari said people of Pakistan stand with their brothers and sisters across the D-8 world in pursuit of democracy, peace and prosperity.
Zardari put forward several proposals for fostering economic cooperation among member countries.
He emphasized the need for Trade and Development Banks; encouraging private sector, facilitating contacts between chambers of commerce and investment houses of the member countries; simplification of visa and customs procedures and barter trade.
The President said, “We must grow our economies, and provide our people with jobs and security.” He said the D-8 has the potential to advance this agenda.
About the D-8 Charter, signed today, the President said it will strengthen the joint undertakings. He said the D-8 Global Vision will be a giant step forward towards achieving long term objectives and the Islamabad Declaration will build upon the road map.
He urged the members of the D-8 to endorse once again the core values of D-8; that include peace, dialogue and cooperation, justice, equality and moderation, democracy, rule of law and harmony, and peaceful co-existence and inclusion.
He said most of D-8 countries have already ratified the PTA and there is need to operationalize it without delay.
The President said D-8 countries represent a huge untapped reservoir that can serve as a catalyst for peace and prosperity around the world.
He said, “Our people want peace within the country and peace with our neighbours.”
He said Pakistan is making unprecedented efforts to normalize relations with India and supports Afghanistan’s own roadmap for peace and reconciliation.
The President said one of the most serious threats facing Pakistan is international terrorism adding that terrorists, both from within Pakistan, and from abroad, seek to impose their agenda.
“We cannot and will not allow Islam to be hijacked and will fight for our values and will fight for the spirit of our great religion that our Holy Prophet (pbuh) gave to use,” he added.
President Zardari said, “We are fighting the terrorists’ dark and destructive vision every day.
Our soldiers, policemen and political workers serve on the front lines of this fight.”
He thanked the outgoing Chairman of D-8, President of Nigeria for his leadership of the Organization during the last 2 years.
He said today, the D-8 is not just eight developing countries but all the eight countries have democracy.
He said, “We always shared common bonds of religion and culture. We are also bound, by the will and spirit of our people.”
He hoped that the D-8 Summit in Islamabad will open new chapters of cooperation and understanding among the member states.
Referring to Pak-Turkey relations, the President said Pakistan’s deep commitment to and friendship with brothers and sisters in Turkey is no secret.
Commenting on Pak-Iran relations, the President said with Iran Pakistan’s destiny is inter-linked. “We are neighbors and are located in the same region,” he added.
The President said, “We have worked closely with our brothers and sisters in Iran and will continue to support peaceful ways to help resolve disagreements between Iran and other parties.”
Among nations in the D8, which was founded in Istanbul in 1997, Nigeria is the only member which is not majority-Muslim. Its population is roughly divided between Muslims and Christians.