ISLAMABAD: Secretary General South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Esala Ruwan Weerakoon Wednesday assured Pakistan that he would spare no effort to strengthen cooperation among the member states so as to realize the full potential of the Association.
Esala Ruwan, who is on his first visit to Pakistan since assuming the office, called on Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Foreign Office. Qureshi reminded him of the important and constructive role played by Pakistan in realizing the true potential of the Saarc and making it a useful organization for regional cooperation and mutual benefit based on the principle of sovereign equality.
Without naming India, the foreign minister reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to hosting the Saarc Summit when the ‘artificial obstacles’ created in its way would be removed, said the Foreign Office.
Pakistan was scheduled to host the 19th Summit of the Saarc in Islamabad in 2016, but following the Uri terror attack, India cancelled its participation, and the process has been stalled ever since. The last Saarc summit was held in Kathmandu in 2014.
Qureshi reassured Esala Ruwan of Pakistan’s strong support for regional cooperation and urged him to accelerate the pace of Saarc process, as this regional forum could provide a conducive and congenial atmosphere to build economic synergies and transform the quality of life of the people of South Asia.
“The foreign minister reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to the principles and objectives of the Saarc Charter for the welfare of the people of the region, economic integration and regional prosperity”, said the Foreign Office.
Expressing condolences on the death of Priyantha Kumara, the Sri Lankan citizen lynched in Sialkot, Qureshi said the entire political leadership, religious scholars and Pakistani nation had condemned the incident and the government was determined to take all necessary steps to bring perpetrators to justice.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated report, the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council has urged the Indian authorities to stop targeting Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez. “Mr. Parvez has worked extensively to document serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearances and unlawful killings, in the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. In his search for accountability, Mr. Parvez has been a victim of a number of incidents of reprisals reportedly for sharing this information with the United Nations, as documented in various reports of the Secretary-General and communications from UN special procedures mandate holders”, said the Rights Council comprising independent experts.
The experts further pointed out that they were concerned that one month after Mr. Parvez’s arrest, he is still deprived of liberty in what appears to be a new incident of retaliation for his legitimate activities as a human rights defender and because he has spoken out about violations.
“In view of this context of previous reprisals, we call on the Indian authorities to immediately release him and ensure his rights to liberty and security,” they added. Parvez, who was arrested on 22 November 2021 on charges related to conspiracy and terrorism under the Indian counter-terrorism legislation – the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) – is presently detained at the Rohini Jail Complex, one of the three most overcrowded and unsanitary prisons in the country, where there is a clear and immediate risk to his health and safety, in particular from COVID-19.
“We regret that the government continues to use the UAPA as a means of coercion to restrict civil society’s, the media’s and human rights defenders’ fundamental freedoms in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir as well as in the rest of the country.
We therefore once again urge the government to bring this legislation in line with India’s international legal obligations under human rights law," the experts said. Those who approached the Indian government included Luciano Hazan (Chair-Rapporteur), Aua Baldé (Vice-Chair), Tae-Ung Baik, Gabriella Citroni, Henrikas Mickevi ius, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while counter-terrorism; and Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.