The cost of terror

Addressing the inaugural session of the three-day conference of Saarc Speakers and Parliamentarians currently being held at Islamabad, President Asif Ali Zardari talked of the whopping cost that Pakistan’s economy had borne as a result of its participation in the war on terror.
He urged all countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation to join hands to tackle the twin-menaces of extremism and terrorism. Besides, he underlined, Pakistan had suffered heavily in terms of human loss, losing as many as 40,000 of its innocent citizens. Arguably, both extremism and terrorism are the most daunting challenges confronting the country. Not only that, the curse has to be tackled as a first priority because without its containment the future would appear scarily bleak; lack of security of life and property would come in the way of economic resurgence, in fact, affect virtually every facet of life. Most of the other countries of the Saarc have either experienced the scourge or are experiencing it in one form and the other. However, joining hands would inevitably imply a sincere effort to put an end to it and necessitate a measure of confidence in one another’s policies. Mr Zardari’s remark that collective approach to explore opportunities for the benefit of the people points to the stage when terrorism had been taken care of. He touched on the subject of food security as well, saying that Saarc parliamentarians should come up with a strategy to ensure that the 1.6 billion population of the Saarc was assured of the availability of enough stock of food and there was no worry about shortages. He believed that democracy was prerequisite to economic growth and political stability and said that Pakistan had taken bold decisions to empower Parliament. According to its agenda, the conference is to discuss ‘steps to promote parliamentary diplomacy, joint efforts to ensure food security, expansion of trade and economic development, checks on narcotics trafficking and terrorism’.
After his address to the conference, President Zardari spoke to the media parrying questions about his holding of dual office in light of Supreme Court judgment in the Asghar Khan case, simply saying that the future would tell what it held in store for him. That was an indication that he was not too concerned about the matter and that the upcoming general elections would settle it by the electorate.
Speaker National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza referred to the issues of poverty, unemployment, terrorism and shrinking economic opportunities, calling them serious challenges. There is little doubt that economic development, the availability of jobs and ending the evil of poverty are interlinked. The Saarc, though decades old, has failed to make its mark, unlike other thriving regional associations. The simple reason is crucial issues among major countries of the Saarc continue to bedevil relations between them, sabotaging the efforts to move forward together. The need is to get rid of these disputes first.


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