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Caretaker PM calls for reforms to make ECO more vibrant, efficient

Anwaarul Haq Kakar lauds corridor-based approach like Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad rail project n Says Pakistan upgrading its rail infrastructure to speed up flow of goods.

TASHKENT/ISLAMABAD   – Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar on Thursday called for enhanced economic ties between Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) member countries to tap trade potential.

Addressing the 16th ECO Summit in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, PM Kakar urged collective efforts and accelerated reforms to achieve the organization’s objectives for bringing colossal economic and peace dividends, the statement said.

“It is crucial for us to work collectively and diligently to realise the goals and objectives of the organization,” he said. Calling for deliberations to expand share in the global and intra-region trade, Kakar emphasised reducing barriers, developing infrastructure, and formulating environment- friendly and sustainable policies, besides reducing poverty.

He lauded the ECO’s corridor-based approach like Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan- Iran, Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul, and others, adding that the integrated transport projects will help promote trade and connectivity. The ECO, which groups Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Türkiye, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, aims to improve development and promote trade in the region. Reiterating Pakistan’s commitment to the ECO Vision 2025, PM called for collective efforts and accelerated reforms to achieve the Organisation’s objectives and region’s trade potential for bringing “colossal” economic and peace dividends.

“Let us make ECO an organisation, not just of words, but actions, not just commitments but implementation. It is crucial for us to work collectively and diligently to realise the goals and objectives of the Organisation… Our region, if well connected, can bring colossal economic and peace dividends for our people,” the prime minister said. The prime minister’s address encompassed an array of issues, including the ECO’s existing trade and true potential, the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Indian atrocities in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Islamophobia as well as the ECO’s projects of regional connectivity. 

He said being blessed with natural resources, geographical linkages and cultural heritage, the ECO region had been unable to exploit its true trade potential as it had just two percent share in global trade and eight percent in intraregional trade. He said in 2022, the trade within the ECO region was recorded at $39 billion against $577 billion with the world and the intraregion exports also stood at $46 billion. He said the ECO Vision 2025, which was adopted by the 13th ECO Summit in Islamabad had called for increasing regional trade, strengthening connectivity, operationalising major transport corridors and seeking energy security. Mentioning the revival of the Istanbul- Tehran-Islamabad rail project, the prime minister said Pakistan was upgrading its rail infrastructure to speed up the flow of goods. He also called for opening more border points within the ECO region to enhance connectivity and trade.

He said the connectivity projects would also facilitate the private sector, and widen the scope of business and investment. The prime minister told the regional leaders that Pakistan had established a one-window platform of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) bringing together all trade-related organisations under one umbrella. The government had identified and focused on five areas of investment, including agriculture, defence production, IT (information technology), energy and mining. Highlighting the significance of Afghanistan in regional connectivity and execution of regional projects like CASA-1000, Trans Afghan Railway and TAPI, he said Pakistan was working closely with the ECO countries to achieve the shared goal of peaceful and interconnected Afghanistan. Coming to the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Prime Minister Kakar said the incessant and lethal Israeli bombardment on Gaza was a deplorable act calling for international condemnation.

He said the situation needed to be addressed as per the resolutions of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and urged the ECO countries to push for a ceasefire and support the call for the provision of humanitarian aid, besides rallying efforts to hold Israel to account. “With the elimination of children, I recall in the history when Pharaoh, on the advent of the Moses’ birth, killed children. And now, unfortunately, the people who claim to be the followers of Moses, are following the path of Pharaoh,” he remarked. Reiterating Pakistan’s strong condemnation, the prime minister called for rallying behind and encouraging to have a humanitarian corridor to help out the suffering Palestinian people. PM Kakar also apprised the regional leaders of the unabated Indian atrocities in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir, and emphasised the ECO countries to support Kashmiris in achieving their right of self-determination.

The prime minister also touched upon the issues of intolerance, violence and xenophobia, and called upon the ECO members and international community to work for building legal deterrence against Islamophobia while maintaining mutual respect, and harmony and co-existence. Prime Minister Kakar thanked Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, also the chair of the 16th Summit, for warm hospitality and ECO Secretary Ambassador Khusrav NOZIRI for his role in strengthening the Organisation. He said as Pakistan would be holding the office of ECO secretary general next year, he expressed the hope that the member countries would extend their support to the country to help achieve the ECO objectives.


Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar held a meeting with President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Thursday and reviewed the progress in bilateral relations especially in the domain of trade, defence and energy. The Prime Minister welcomed the announcement of direct flight operations of Azerbaijan Airline (AZAL) to Pakistan terming it a positive development in people to-people exchanges and to advance two-way business and tourism. Anwaar- ul-Haq Kakar and President Aliyev discussed common challenges including Islamophobia and climate change and the critical role of ECO to promote regional cooperation and collective prosperity.