Islamabad: Pakistan Businesses Forum says in the coming 19th SAARC summit, it will be likely that renewal of SAARC trade bodies issue would discuss in length.
President PBF, Sahibzada Usman Zulfiqar said the diplomatic and political brawl between Pakistan and India has paralyzed SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAARC CCI) as the Association has barred Pakistan from using its nomenclature being a suspended body.
Iftikhar Ali Malik from Lahore has been nominated the President of SAARC CCI in few months back as per rotation policy.
Only July 6, 2020, Fazulrahman Rahmani, Director, HRT, SAARC Secretariat wrote a letter to the heads of the SAARC recognised regional apex bodies saying that according to SAARC guidelines and procedures, their recognition status has expired. The recognition of 24 bodies( six apex bodies and 18 recognized bodies) has expired. Previously, SAARC bodies used to continue their working as per schedule despite expiry of recognition but this is the first time, they have been barred from functioning.
According to the letter, in terms of guidelines and procedures for granting/ renewal of recognition by SAARC to the ‘SAARC recognized regional apex bodies’, the Standing Committee is the competent SAARC body to take a decision on this matter. Given the fact, the status of recognition of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is no more valid beyond its date of expiry and stands pending until the competent body of SAARC meets and considers the matter relating to the Chamber, including the question of renewal of recognition.
SAARC Secretariat Nepal has asked SAARC CCI to discontinue its activities under the nomenclature of SAARC until its status of recognition is renewed by the competent body of SAARC.
The sources said, the competent body means the Secretaries of Foreign Affairs of member countries, adding that the issue cannot be resolved until their meeting is not held. However, there is no indication that India will be agreed on early meeting of the apex body.
Pakistan’s relevant entity, sources said, recently wrote a couple of letters to the concerned authorities of SAARC, showing concern on delaying tactics on the part of some office holders of the organization.
Secretary General SAARC is a Sri Lankan former diplomat who served as High Commissioner to India . There is perception that he is playing in the hands of Indian government.
Iftikhar Malik along with a delegation also met with Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and sought his help to resolve the issue. There are also reports that the SAARC CCI is collecting fee for SAARC sticker in dollars from businessmen despite the fact the organization licence has expired.
SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been enjoying the Apex Status of SAARC since 1992, has been playing a vital role for the economic integration of the South Asian region.
The SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry was embodied on recommendation of the study “Trade, Manufactures and Services” commissioned by the SAARC Secretariat in 1988, and endorsed by the Council of Ministers with objectives of creating business to business relationships, to voice the interest of private sector and serve as the consultative body of private sector of the region, and to promote exchange of commercial, technical, industrial management and scientific information, education and know-how amongst its members.
The source said, notification of SAARC Secretariat regarding the Recognized Regional Apex Bodies of SAARC to discontinue activities under the nomenclature of SAARC until the Recognition Status is renewed at the next SAARC Standing Committee meeting, is rather impracticable and will hinder the progress of activities of the SAARC CCI aimed at regional economic integration.
” The due date of the next SAARC Standing Committee meeting is likely to held in the coming 19th summit which Islamabad desire to host, regardless SAARC Standing Committee has not been held since 2016, over the past four years. As a responsible and well reputed institution, the SAARC CCI is not in a position to discontinue its activities for an uncertain period of time. Moreover, the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry has invested PKR 600 crores on its Permanent Headquarters in Islamabad. With work in progress and certain contractual obligations signed under the SAARC nomenclature, it may drag the SAARC CCI and its leadership in unnecessary legal complications and litigations process.”
He also said SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry since its inception is engaged with several international institutions, other regional Chambers of Commerce and development partners on several projects across the region. However, without the nomenclature of SAARC , SAARC CCI will certainly not be able to continue projects on entrepreneurship development and cross border trade facilitation, that would not only tarnish the image of SAARC CCI But also the image of SAARC processes and SAARC Secretariat.
” At this very low political tide on regional cooperation, where the 20th SAARC Summit is suspended for the fifth year, and the allied committees and sub-committees find it hard to meet. In this backdrop, the allied and apex bodies, in their mandate are working to defuse the political rifts between the member countries and keep the motive of regional integration alive,” the sources added.
The Apex and Allied bodies of SAARC are the true representation of the Peoples of the region and speak their mind and hearts. Therefore, it is vital to devise a credible and sustainable mechanism to monitor the apex and allied status of the affiliated bodies to avoid risking hopes and resources of the member nations by negating right to use the SAARC Nomenclature and putting such vital institutions in limbo, the sources continued.
Pakistan has already requested the concerned authorities to allow SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry to operate under SAARC patronage and nomenclature to carry forward agenda of regional integration within the ambit of SAARC Charter, Constitution of SAARC CCI and the Guidelines & Procedure for Apex bodies, till next meeting of standing committee.