Sharif seeks regional cooperation to end social ills

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday urged countries in the region to work jointly in changing the economic landscape of South Asia and help get people out of the clutches of poverty, illiteracy and other social ills. "Three decades back the South Asian leadership made a commitment to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development of our region," Sharif said while addressing the inaugural function of a meeting here of Finance Ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc). "For economic and social progress of the masses, increasing connectivity, ease of communication, freer trade and finding solution to hunger, poverty and food insecurity has helped the world enhance regional and sub-regional cooperation." Sharif expressed the confidence that the deliberations of the Finance Ministers would complement the agenda of the 19th Saarc summit, which Pakistan looks forward to hosting on November 9-10 this year. Ministers and senior officials from Saarc member-nations -- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka -- participated in the daylong conference, Xinhua news agency reported. Officials said the delegates discussed proposal to move from the South Asian Free Trade Area to the South Asian Economic Union, focus on customs-related trade facilitation measures, and finalising the draft on Saarc agreement on promotion and protection of investment.  Also coming up for discussion was implementation of the Saarc Agreement on Trade in Services (SATIS), avoidance of double taxation and mutual administrative assistance in tax matters and transactions in local currencies. IANS