ISLAMABAD: Two-day International Conference (21st-22nd September) on ‘’Pakistan – Eurasian Heartland Connectivity: Towards Socio-Economic, Academic, and Legal Cooperation’’ was held at Area Study Center (Russia, China & Central Asia), University of Peshawar, Peshawar. First day of the Conference was conducted in two sessions. The main goal of the International Conference is to enhance closer cooperation and connectivity within Eurasian countries. The objective is to deliberate upon the ways and means for enhancing trade, economic, cultural, educational, and industrial links between Pakistan and the Eurasian heartland for shared growth and prosperity.
Day first of the conference was well attended by the worthy Ambassadors of various countries to Pakistan and renowned subject experts and scholars from all across Pakistan.
The theme of the first session was ‘’Pakistan- Eurasian Connectivity: Analyzing Opportunities and Challenges”. The session was commenced with the key note address by Prof. Dr. Shabir Ahmed Khan, Director, Area Study Center (Russia, China, Central Asia), University of Peshawar. He welcomed all the participants, speakers and worthy Ambassadors. He highlighted the significance of Eurasian region. He enlightened the audience about regional connectivity and associated benefits for integration because of regionalism. Prof. Dr. Shabir shed light on important multilateral regional arrangement programs, i.e., CAREC, BRI, ECO, CPEC, Mizar-e-Shareef-Kabul-Peshawar, etc. While concluding his speech, he stated that joint efforts are required to enhance research & academic cooperation between Pakistan and Eurasia.
Prof. Dr. Muhammad Saleem Mazhar, Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of the Punjab, Lahore stated that universities are the driving force for integration and academic learning. He enlightened the audience about the Regional Integration Center (RIC), University of the Punjab, Lahore and its initiatives for joint collaboration among regions. Prof. Dr. Saleem stated that if universities strive towards enhancing research dynamics via students and faculty exchanges, it will enhance people-to-people contacts, prosperity, and cooperation.
Mr. Khalid Taimur Akram, Executive Director, Center for Global & Strategic Studies (CGSS), Islamabad welcomed all participants and Ambassadors. He explained the concept of regional connectivity and also establishment of regional integration center at various universities. He stated that the aim is to have joint efforts to enhance academic cooperation, fellowship programs and research initiatives. He also highlighted the significance of Eurasian Industrial Research Center that is to establish market links between Pakistan and Central Asian SMEs sector. Mr. Khalid Taimur Akram enlightened the participants about Eurasian Legal Center, facilitating regulatory regimes and laws with other regional countries.
His Excellency Aybek Arif Usmanov, Ambassador of the Republic Uzbekistan to Pakistan addressed the audience online. He expressed his gratitude to all worthy speakers and Ambassadors. He highlighted the legacy of Zaheer-ur-din Babur, Allama Iqbal and Rehman Baba in contributing to peace, cooperation, and friendly regional ties. He shed light on the significant initiatives taken by His Excellency Shavkat Mirziyoyev, President of Uzbekistan for regional connectivity. H.E. Aybek Arif Usmanov talked about the mega development projects between Central Asia and Pakistan for enhanced cooperation. He also discussed Pakistan-Uzbekistan cordial relationship in terms of trade development.
Prof. Dr. Nadeem Ahmed Chaudhry, Pro-Vive Chancellor, University of Sialkot expressed his views on regional connectivity between Eurasian region and Pakistan. He stated that academic institutions play a vital role in enhancing regional integration and socioeconomic indicators. He highlighted the importance of Eurasian Industrial Research Center established at the University of Sialkot. He stated that through joint academic and industrial research, Pakistan can develop new mode of market collaboration and technological transformation.
Second session was commenced with the speech by His Excellency Yerzhan Kistafin, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Pakistan. He enlightened the audience about Kazakhstan and Pakistan bilateral relations. He stated that Pakistan is a golden gate for Kazakhstan as it provides a great way to reach warm waters. Likewise, Kazakhstan is a golden gate for Pakistan to access Eurasian Economic Union. H.E Yerzhan Kistafin stated that this is the time to revive brotherly relations between Central and South Asia for regional connectivity and unity. He stated that People-to-people dimension is significant to strengthen relations between regional countries.
His Excellency Ulanbek Totuiaev, Ambassador of Kyrgyz Republic to Pakistan expressed his views on Pakistan and Central Asian countries. He highlighted investment opportunities in Kyrgyzstan. He explained that there are many investment opportunities in Kyrgyzstan for enhanced regional cooperation. He also shed light on the initiative of direct flight commencement between Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan. He stated that South Asian countries can invest in many domains because Kyrgyzstan has potential in diverse fields.
Mr. Zahid Latif Khan, Chairman, Islamabad Stock Exchange gave speech on Trade and Transport Connectivity for Enhanced Regional Economic Growth. He stated that for regional cooperation, comparative advantage is important and we need to understand its relevance. He suggested that energy cooperation is necessary between Central and South Asia. However, infrastructure development is a hindrance. Therefore, it must be resolved via mutual accords and agreements by regional countries.
Mr. Mian Abdul Rauf, Former Advocate-General Islamabad & Prosecutor-General of Pakistan under the Protection of Pakistan Act gave speech on understanding Legal Landscape, Legal Barriers to Regional Connectivity between Pakistan and Eurasia. He stated that modern infrastructure, information technology, legal regimes, and advanced transport system are the barriers for connectivity. He suggested that dispute resolution mechanisms and legal frameworks are required to resolve common issues.
Prof. Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, Professor, Social Sciences Department, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad shared his views on regional connectivity imperative for shared prosperity. He stated that without regional connectivity, countries are unable to build economic cooperation. This implies huge shared responsibility on all regional states. Prof. Dr. Zafar Nawaz stated that Central and South Asia have many similarities, i.e., culture, religious, historical, spiritual etc. Thereby, role of academic institutions is pivotal to rejuvenate the historical relations between Pakistan and Eurasian region. While concluding his speech, he stated that in the 21st century, we all must move ahead for shared future and prosperity.
The sessions were moderated by Dr. Fouzia Hadi Ali, Director, Regional Integration Center (RIC), University of the Punjab, Lahore. It is noteworthy that the conference was well attended by students and renowned scholars, experts, academicians, and policy makers of Pakistan.