LONDON: Britain’s Minister for Pakistan Tobias Ellwood has said that the UK is ready to help Pakistan to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake that has claimed over 260 lives and over 1,000 injured.
In an exclusive interview with Geo News, the minister said that Pakistan has not made any request for “assistance” as yet but the UK “stands with its ally Pakistan and we will do everything we can to help Pakistan deal with this terrible disaster”.
The minister was speaking to this correspondent after answering questions at the Westminster Hall debate which was secured by Conservative MP Rehman Chishti, the member for Gillingham and Rainham, to discuss the aftermath of the earthquake in Pakistan.
The minister said that he was in Pakistan a “couple of weeks ago” and had frank and through discussion with Pakistani officials about the “progress that has been made”.
The minister said: “Pakistan has to be congratulated for the important steps it has taken for improving the security because by improving the security we can the encourage business to come along and improve prosperity as these things go hand in hand”.
The minister said during the debate: “Security across Pakistan has improved dramatically. Terrorist attacks are far less common - and Pakistan is determined to build on the progress made so far. The British Government is playing its part too.
“We are training the Pakistani police, prosecutors and judiciary to investigate, prosecute and sentence terrorist suspects in line with international human rights standards. Improved security is helping to drive economic growth.
“And an IMF programme has helped stabilise the economy since the fiscal and balance of payments crisis two years ago. But more reform is needed to boost growth to the 7-8% needed to reduce poverty. So we continue to encourage Pakistan to address the energy crisis, tackle corruption and undertake further privatisations.
“And we are supporting businesses wanting to trade more with Pakistan – where, from energy to infrastructure, the opportunities are clear. You cannot sustain the advances made in security and prosperity without good governance. And democracy in Pakistan has shallow roots. So we are sharing our experience to help cement accountable governance, credible elections and civilian transitions.”
Rehman Chishti MP told Geo News that he had moved the motion for this debate as “timing” of the debate is important from Pakistani perspective.
“We wanted to ask the UK government to help Pakistan as it has done before. UK has helped Pakistan in improving security and developing economy. The two countries are engaged with each other as strong allies also through comprehensive strategic dialogue. The minister confirmed that the comprehensive strategic partnership will be enhanced.”
Rehman Chishti MP had hosted a reception in the honour of Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif when he was here on an official visit over two weeks ago.
The MP said that there was huge acknowledgement of the fact in the UK govt circles that the Pakistani army chief was right when he said that terrorist attacks have been down by more than 70 per cent in the country.
“The UK understands that it’s a great development. If there is no peace then there will be no investment. I am thankful to my colleagues who helped me in the organization of this debate on Pakistan.”
Imran Hussain MP said that his “thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the earthquake who have suffered. Today’s was an important cross party debate where parliamentarians came together and offered help to the people of Pakistan. We want that the links between the two countries must be strengthened. We also raised the issue of Kashmir with the minister and stressed that it must be resolved according to the aspirations of the people of Kashmir otherwise the objective of peace will remain elusive.”
Yasim Qureshi MP said that the minister was told about the achievements Pakistan has made.
“I think it’s highly important that we tell the story of Pakistan to others to highlight how Pakistan has come a long way in so many areas. Pakistan’s security situation is much better now and investment is increasing but we want more investment and job creation in Pakistan because Pakistan has a huge youth population which needs jobs.”
Naz Shah MP said that British Pakistanis were saddened after seeing the heart breaking scenes coming out of Pakistan.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Pakistan. Our community is full standing behind Pakistan and will remain at the forefront of helping Pakistan. We will send aid and support to Pakistan.”
Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK, Syed Ibne Abbas welcomed the debate.
He told Geo News: “The debate is part of the comprehensive strategic dialogue. The minister reassured us that he will address concerns of Pakistanis. He agreed that trade between the two countries should be increased, travel advisory should be revisited and concerns related to visas and travel will be addressed.”