ISLAMABAD: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday termed the improved security situation of Pakistan as “absolutely remarkable”, noting that Islamabad, which looked like a “fortress” a few years back had now become a family station for the world body’s staff.
Guterres was responding to a question regarding “Pakistan’s journey from terrorism to tourism” after a seminar at Islamabad’s National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST).
“We are witnessing the state becoming present, both from the point of view of security [… and] basic service, development in an absolutely remarkable transformation,” he said.
“I can see how Pakistan not only opened its borders, in a world where so many borders are closed, but Pakistani people open their houses and their hearts in [an] enormous demonstration of generosity,” he said while referring to the influx of Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
“At the same time, I have seen the commitment of Pakistan to peace, namely to support peace in Afghanistan,” he added.
Guterres also appreciated the contributions of Pakistani troops to UN peacekeeping missions. “Pakistan has been lever in making peacekeeping more effective, more accountable and with a stronger capacity to protect civilians and to make the blue helmets an essential force for peace.”
“I want to pay tribute to the very strong commitment of Pakistan to multilateralism and to United Nations,” he said.
Earlier, during the seminar arranged by NUST, he had paid rich tribute to Pakistani peacekeeping troops and hailed their “professionalism [and] commitment”. He commended the peacekeeping troops for their efforts to bring peace in countries struck by war and violence.
Earlier today, Guterres said Pakistan is still the second-largest country in hosting refugees, and despite many challenges, Pakistan set a good example.
Addressing two-day Refugee Summit Islamabad on 40 years of hosting Afghan refugees in Pakistan, he said the solution lies in Afghanistan. Guterres underlined the need for a renewed commitment to peace in Afghanistan for the successful repatriation of Afghan refugees.
He said the people of Pakistan extended generosity to the Afghan refugees for forty years, and this story is very close to his heart.
The UN Secretary-General said we must recognize that international support has been minimal as compared to national contribution. He said the time has come for the international community to act and deliver with responsibility sharing. He said refugee is a big challenge, but this conference shows commitment to solving the issue.
Addressing the summit, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Pakistan is pursuing a policy of return of Afghan refugees with dignity, safety, and honor.
The Minister said peace and stability are indispensable and Pakistan would continue supporting Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.
He said every refugee is hoping that peace will restore leading to repatriation.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Pakistan hosted five million Afghan refugees and today three million registered and unregistered Afghan refugees are residing in Pakistan.
He said Pak-Afghan relations have provided an impetus to host millions of Afghan refugees.
The Foreign Minister urged the world to join hands with Pakistan to provide basic needs to Afghan refugees and enable them to live a dignified life.
He said international cooperation is required more than ever before.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi said caring should be a shared responsibility.
He said Afghan refugees are expecting the world to rebuild their country after the restoration of peace there.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Imran Khan while addressing the same conference, reaffirmed that Pakistan seeks peace in Afghanistan as instability in the war-torn country was not in its interest.
“It is my belief that the people of Afghanistan have suffered more than any other human community and I pray from my heart that these peace talks are successful,” said PM Imran in reference to the ongoing talks between the US and the Afghan Taliban in Doha.