The National Assembly of Pakistan hosted the Second General Conference of the Parliamentary Assembly of Economic Cooperation Organization (PAECO) in Islamabad from May 31, 2021 to June 3, 2021. The Parliamentary leadership along-with delegates, including Members of Parliament and Parliamentary officials, from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan as well as leadership of ECO Secretariat participated in the conference which focused on the theme “Promoting Parliamentary Partnerships for Regional Integration.”
As part of the Second General Conference of PAECO, the National Assembly of Pakistan and Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS) jointly organized special session on ADVANCING TOURISM FOR DEVELOPMENT AND POVERTY ALLEVIATION on June 02, 2021. The session was attended by around 50 participants including delegates from PAECO member countries as well as officials from the National Parliament, Embassies of member states in Pakistan and PIPS. The session was moderated by Joint Secretary National Assembly, Mr. Syed Jawad Hussain Naqvi, began with the recitation of Holy Quran by Qari Muhammad Anees, translated by Ms. Laraib Kiani.
Hon. Senator Dr. Sania Nishtar, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation, welcomed the participants on behalf of Speaker National Assembly of Pakistan, Hon. Asad Qaiser. She paid rich tribute to ECO Secretariat as well as the organizers of the Conference for bringing together MPs across the ECO region to deliberate on the imperative subject.
She acknowledged the inspiration of “Riasat-e-Madina,” in times of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) provides the bedrock of vision for all poverty alleviation efforts in Pakistan. She highlighted the seven (7) goals under the Ehsaas program which target fourteen (14) vulnerable groups including impoverished and children across Pakistan. She underscored some of the ongoing social protection projects including the upcoming one window social protection services. She emphasized the need to adopt a holistic approach in order to deal with the menace of poverty in an efficient manner. She stated that the government looks at tourism as an engine of growth and development. In order to reap that potential government is working upon the 2030 National Tourism Strategy. By cooperating among themselves ECO countries can overcome the challenges they face for the promotion of tourism, especially in the wake of COVID-19, in their respective countries as well the region as a whole.
Afghanistan: Ms. Shinakai Karokhail, Member of the Wolesi Jirga of Afghanistan: She emphasized the need to develop inter-parliamentary cooperation in the region for promoting tourism among member states, and highlighted the challenge of terrorism her country faces which severely hampers the ability to cape the potential of tourism in Afghanistan. She proposed the formation of dedicated team to work out the establishment of regional tourism organization by utilizing joint resources. She also proposed the signing of a security cooperation agreement among the member states.
Azerbaijan: The Azeri delegation to the special session on “Advancing Tourism for Development and Poverty Alleviation” comprised of Hon. Ganira Pashayeva, Chair of the Committee on Culture and Head of the Working Group on Azerbaijan-Pakistan Inter-Parliamentary Relations, and Hon. Malahat Ibrahimgizi, Deputy Chair of the Committee on Labor & Social Policy.
Hon. Ganira Pashayeva lauded the efforts of the Parliament of Pakistan in organizing the second general conference of PAECO. She spoke about tourism and poverty alleviation in relation to the efforts of the international community in this regard, especially from the platform of the global development goals which began with the MDGs. Taking a historical perspective she expressed her thoughts on the Millennium Development Goals which were agreed to by 147 world leaders in September 2000.
These included eight (8) important goals including poverty reduction. However, despite global calls to reduce poverty, the challenge continues to linger on. Over the years intolerance has increased which threatens to coexist. There is need to promote tolerance, respect richness of culture and end extremism. She went on to highlight that war in itself is a root cause of poverty. Hon. Ganira Pashayeva highlighted the challenges her country faced in the wake of Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories and underscored the government efforts to restore the tourism industry as a result of the recent liberation of occupied territories, including launch of new airport and the initiative to declare Shusha as cultural capital. Ms. Malahat Ibrahimgizi, Deputy Chair of the Committee on Labor and Social Policy, also spoke on behalf of Azeraijan; she shed light on the unique success her country had achieved in dealing with COVID-19. She stated that beyond economic development, tourism means “unity.”
Iran (Virtual): Dr. Seyed Ehsan Khandouzi, Vice Chairman of the Economic Committee: He stated that tourism is a powerful tool to generate economic activity. Iran is among the world’s top ten (10) tourist destinations. The historical Silk Route binds the ECO countries together in shared culture. With 74% decline in tourism world over, the industry has suffered severe blow in the wake of pandemic. However, it also provides the opportunity to recover with joint efforts. Within the framework of Vision 2025 he emphasized on easing visa regulations among member countries. He lamented the lack of regional approach and encouraged member countries to increase intra-region tourism.
Turkmenistan (Virtual): Hon. G. Rozyyev, Chairman of the Committee on Science, Education, Culture & Youth Policy: Tourism is one of the most profitable sector in Turkmenistan which is home to beautiful gorges and mountains and some of the UNESCO world heritage sites. Over the past few years, the country has taken several important steps in this direction. Resultantly, the country has attracted interest at international exhibitions. There is a need to come forward with joint efforts like legislation among ECO member countries for the promotion of tourism.
Turkey: Mrs. Ceyda BÖLÜNMEZ ÇANKIRI, Member of Parliament: She termed Pakistan “Sister Country” and thanked for the hospitality offered to her delegation in Pakistan. She delved upon the impact of COVID-19 on tourism industry in Turkey and proposed some key steps for revitalization of this sector including the efforts to sustain social life, economic packages, and vaccination. She emphasized the need for joint efforts among member nations including legislation. She ended her talk by highlighting the efforts of the Turkish government to open Hagia Sophia for Muslims world over.
Uzbekistan: Mr. Zohidov Erkin Azamovich, Chairman of the Committee on Science, Education, Culture and Sports: He highlighted the efforts of his government to promote tourism in his country like New Uzbekistan initiative, and noted the potential for increasing tourism in the region through mutual cooperation. He stated that tourism is a mechanism for poverty alleviation. Uzbekistan’s major cities like Bukhara and Samarkand are rich in historical and cultural heritage. He delved upon various forms of tourism in his country like historical tourism, ethnic tourism, adventure tourism, sustainable eco-tourism, religious and pilgrimage tourism.
During the discussion, the participants delved upon the Joint Statement that was drafted by Mr Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka, Director General (Research), Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS) as a way forward from amongst the recommendations given in the speeches by the MPs who represented respective member countries in the session. The delegate from Afghanistan laid special emphasis on the elimination of terrorism which has severely hampered tourism in her country.
The Honorable Member of Parliament from Azerbaijan encouraged the delegates to take strong worded joint statement in terms of proposing the future course of action. She also underscored the need to add the term “legal” to the phrase “all forms of tourism.” She pointed out that some forms of tourism are not allowed in some countries. The participants agreed to following set of recommendations:
The session concluded with remarks of Hon. Fawad Chaudhry, MNA/Federal Minister for Information & Broadcasting. He shared insights about tourism in Pakistan and highlighted the significance of tourism for furthering the development agenda and alleviating the menace of poverty in the ECO region which comprises of ten (10) countries. He commended the efforts of Hon. Speaker National Speaker for hosting the PAECO conference and stated that it is an excellent opportunity to promote tourism within the region. He laid special emphasis on “normalcy” of security situation in order to promote tourism. He also shed light on government efforts to tackle the situation arising out of the pandemic. Moreover, through Ehsaas program, the government has addressed the issue of poverty alleviation in the country in an efficient manner. The session ended with vote of thanks, presented by the moderator, and group photograph. The Secretary, National Assembly Mr Tahir Hussain eulogized the comprehensive efforts of the Team, Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services in making the memorable session a rousing success. He acknowledged the quality-oriented professionalism of Team PIPS in developing different sets of research based write ups and documentations for the entire 2nd General Conference of the PAECO, Islamabad that were published in the shape of Conference Booklet, reports and daily Conference Bulletins throughout the conference.