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SAARC summit postponed as major members boycott

AT Monitoring Desk-KABUL: After India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan boycotted the upcoming South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit, Pakistan announced that the summit scheduled for November 9-10 in Islamabad had been postponed ‘indefinitely’ and will now be held on an alternative date.

“A new set of dates for holding of the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad will be announced soon, through the Chair of SAARC (Nepal). Accordingly, we have conveyed the same to the Prime Minister of Nepal, the current Chair of SAARC,” a press release from the office of the Spokesperson of Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

“The General Provisions of the SAARC Charter require that decisions at all levels shall be taken on the basis of unanimity, and this applies to the convening Heads of State or Government of SAARC Member States as well,” the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding, “Sri Lanka condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and stresses in this regard the need to deal with the issue of terrorism in a decisive manner”.

However, Minister for Foreign Affairs Prakash Sharan Mahat said that Nepal would take necessary initiatives and hold discussions with member countries to press for holding the 19th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Summit (SAARC Summit), which has been postponed after India-Pakistan relations soured in wake of terrorist attacks and cross-border skirmishes.

Addressing the media in Delhi, Afghan envoy Shaida M. Abdali demanded that SAARC should focus on counter-terror initiatives.

“SAARC has to adopt a new approach to ensure security for South Asia. Our previous approach in dealing with terrorism did not work. So Afghanistan has taken the initiative to not participate in the Islamabad Summit. We would like to reach out (to Pakistan) but business as usual cannot continue as global patience with terrorism has grown thin,” Mr. Abdali said.

Meanwhile, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted, ‘We note Pakistan’s decision 2 postpone SAARC Summit. They’ve been compelled 2 recognise the regional sentiment against terrorism.’

President’s Spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri also confirmed to Afghanistan Times that no Afghan official would attend the SAARC summit in Islamabad. “We will not attend the summit at any level. We will boycott the summit,” he said. He termed lack of cooperation from Pakistan, especially in the war against terrorism as a core reason behind Kabul’s decision to boycott the summit.

The Afghan government had repeatedly asked Islamabad to eliminate the Taliban and Haqqani Network and stop using extremists as strategic assets. Afghan officials have also alleged Pakistan of supporting the Islamic State, also known as Daesh. Security forces have detained several members of Daesh and recovered Pakistani documents from their possession, proving identity of the IS fighters. Top U.S military generals have also confirmed that most of Daesh members are ex-Pakistani Taliban.

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