A South Asian nation in crisis – Manila Bulletin

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PEACEMAKER

Jose de Venecia Jr.
Former Speaker of the House

The people of Pakistan have demonstrated not only their unwavering commitment to nation-building and democracy, but also their deep humanitarian spirit by hosting and protecting millions of Afghan refugees, sharing their limited resources.

So, it breaks our hearts to see these caring people suffering greatly from the relentless floods two months ago, which claimed the lives of nearly 1,500 people and devastated some 33 million others. About a third of the country remains submerged and the number of victims continues to rise.

The Pakistani government, the United Nations and other international organizations have warned of an impending health crisis in the South Asian country.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the massive flood “unprecedented climate carnage” and denounced the lack of attention the world, especially industrialized countries, has given to climate change.

We know that the people of Pakistan will recover from the disaster, which some observers have described as gigantic, given their indomitable spirit. It is, however, incumbent on the international community to support the people of Pakistan as they attempt to recover from the colossal difficulties in which they find themselves. We urge people and governments around the world to show compassion and solidarity with the people of Pakistan in their time. of need.

On a more personal note, Pakistan holds a special place in our hearts as we have formed friendships there during our modest foray into political parties – and parliamentary diplomacy over many years.
Benazir Bhutto, who served as the first female prime minister of Pakistan and the Muslim world, accepted our invitation to speak at the founding and launch of ICAPP, the International Conference of Asian Political Parties, in Manila in September 2000. We and our wife Gina were heartbroken when she was murdered in December 2007, as she was a very dear friend to us.

His 34-year-old son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is now Pakistan’s foreign minister and would be the youngest to be appointed to the post.

We first met Bilawal, then 22, when he spoke at the ICAPP conference in Nanning, China. Like his beloved late mother Benazir, Bilawal is bright, eloquent and outspoken.

Then there is Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, the brilliant geopolitical expert, who is chairman of the powerful Senate Committee on Defense and Defense Production, and earlier, the Committee on Foreign Relations.

Senator Mushahid is also Vice President and Special Rapporteur of our International Conference of Asian Political Parties which has 350 members and co-founded with us in 2006 the Asian Parliamentary Assembly, APA, which is now made up of over 40 parliaments in Asia.

Incidentally, at our invitation as Speaker of the House, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf addressed the joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate in April 2005, during his state visit to the Philippines.

It was also during our tenure as House Leader that, also at our modest invitation, US President George W. Bush addressed the joint session of the Philippine Congress in October 2003; Chinese President Hu Jintao in April 2005; and Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam in February 2006.

The Philippines and Pakistan established diplomatic relations on September 8, 1949. Presidents Diosdado Macapagal and Fidel V. Ramos visited Pakistan in 1962 and 1997, respectively. On the other hand, Pakistani Prime Ministers Husseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Mohammad Khan Junejo and Benazir Bhutto and President Pervez Musharraf visited our country.

Official data from the Philippines shows that bilateral trade between our countries amounted to US$215.95 million in 2021. As of February 2022, Pakistan’s exports to the Philippines amounted to US$25.25 million and imports from the Philippines at US$3.65 million.

There are around 2,000 Filipinos in Pakistan, of whom around 1,000 are professional and non-professional workers. Some are married to Pakistani nationals. There are also a number of Pakistani nationals in the Philippines.

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