Islamabad: Pakistan on Sunday sought the support of SAARC countries in fighting the menace of illegal drugs that were being used as a "weapon of war", as parliamentary delegations from India and other members gathered for a meeting of the regional grouping.
Inaugurating the conference of the Association of SAARC Speakers and Parliamentarians, President Asif Ali Zardari said the forum was "uniquely placed to build consensus on matters of common interest".
He said by building such consensus, the forum can "lay the basis for solid cooperation" among SAARC states, he said.
The Indian delegation is being led by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, who had made a considerable impact on Pakistani politicians during a bilateral visit to Islamabad in February.
Referring to the issue of terrorism, Zardari said no country has suffered as much as Pakistan, which had lost more than 40,000 lives and over USD 80 billion due to the menace.
"The fight against militancy can be won by winning the hearts and minds of the people. We must therefore address the sense of helplessness and deprivation.
"We must also address illegal drug trafficking as the financial source of militancy," he said.
Pakistan wants the support of SAARC countries against illegal drugs, which are being used as a "weapon of war", Zardari said.
The three-day meet opened with the main objective of strengthening people-to-people contacts to foster mutual understanding, trust and friendship in the region.
Besides India, delegations from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Afghanistan and Bhutan also arrived in the Pakistani capital today to attend the sixth conference that will focus on issues like meaningful participatory democracy and food security in South Asia.
"The changing political and economic landscape has enhanced the role of the SAARC parliaments. The SAARC parliaments are now well placed to plan and lead efforts for solving complex issues besetting the region," Zardari said.
Increasing interaction among SAARC parliaments augurs well for the democratic process and for peace and stability in the region, he said.
The regional parliaments "can help sensitise public opinion for the achievement of our common goals", he added.
Faisal Karim Kundi, the Deputy Speaker of Pakistan`s National Assembly or lower house of Parliament, said in a statement that the conference will promote a positive image of Pakistan and the participants will be informed about the Parliament`s performance over the past four years.
Speakers and Parliamentarians of the region will discuss
a host of issues related to regional cooperation, promotion of democratic values and good governance.
The conference will also focus on meaningful participatory democracy in South Asia, food security in the region and Parliament`s role in accomplishing the Millennium Development Goals.
It is also a forum for exchanging ideas and information on Parliamentary practices and procedures.
The conference supports the work of SAARC and promotes knowledge of its principles and activities among parliamentarians of South Asia.
The first conference of the SAARC Speakers and Parliamentarians was held in New Delhi in 1995.
The current conference is being hosted by National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza, who led the Pakistani delegation to the last meet held in New Delhi in July 2011.