ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday said the sustained high-level exchanges between Pakistan and the European Union was vital to further strengthen the growing partnership.
The prime minister, in a meeting with the newly appointed Ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan Dr. Riina Kionka who called on him here, said that Pakistan attached high importance to its relations with the EU as well as its historically close and cooperative bilateral ties with EU member states.
Recalling his recent telephone conversations with the EU Council President Charles Michel and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, the prime minister expressed confidence that the upcoming visits to Pakistan by the EU Parliamentary delegations as well as the next rounds of political and security dialogues under EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan would pave the way for more substantive cooperation between the two sides.
He credited the current GSP Plus scheme with enhancing the mutually beneficial trading ties between Pakistan and EU and hoped that Pakistan would continue to be part of the arrangement beyond 2023. Noting the 60th anniversary of Pakistan-EU relations this year, the prime minister stressed that this milestone should be commemorated by both sides in a fitting manner.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif stressed the importance of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. He also highlighted the unprecedented level of cooperation that Pakistan had extended to the international community in regard to Afghanistan, especially since the developments of August last year. Dr. Riina Kionka thanked the prime minister for receiving her and expressed her resolve to work for further deepening of EU-Pakistan relations during her tenure in Islamabad.
Government committed to socio-economic emancipation of minorities: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday said the government was taking steps to mainstream minorities in the country by ensuring a level-playing field for them. “The idea is to enable and facilitate all segments of society, particularly our non-Muslim citizens, to take a full part in the national life,” he said in a message on the National Day of Minorities.
PM Sharif said the government was taking steps to provide equal opportunities to minorities such as allocation of special quota at representative fora, and also in educational institutions and other services. He mentioned other measures for the uplift of poor minorities including dedicated financial support for their emancipation. He said mending the fault lines of socio-religious exploitation besides eradicating its causes was the cornerstone of the government’s policies.
The prime minister mentioned that National Day of Minorities, which is celebrated on the 11th of August every year, serves to highlight the contributions that the non-Muslim Pakistani citizens made to national development. “This day we express our gratitude to our minority communities for their meritorious services for the uplift of the motherland,” he said. “The day also reminds us of our constitutional, religious and political responsibility to protect their rights and freedoms.” He said Islam is a religion of peace, harmony, and tolerance. According to the Holy Quran, there is no compulsion in matters of religion, he added.
He said the Quranic precept coupled with the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) provides a basis for the principle enunciated by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his historic address to the nation on 11th August 1948. Emphasizing freedom of religion and sanctity of the lives and property of minorities, he said the right had further been statutorily formalized in the country’s constitution. PM Sharif said the government stands committed to these obligations and officially celebrates the 11th of August to reiterate its resolve towards the achievement of the noble objective of building an inclusive society in line with the vision of the Quaid-i-Azam.
He reaffirmed the coalition government’s resolve for the betterment and welfare of minorities and their fullest inclusion in national life and development. “I will also avail myself of this opportunity to call upon our brothers and sisters from all minority communities to keep playing their role for the promotion of an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual accommodation,” he said. He said, “This is the only course which leads to the achievement of our shared objective of promoting interfaith harmony and peace in our society. Pakistan belongs to its people without any discrimination of caste, creed, and colour.”