LONDON: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani while addressing a reception at the House of Commons said that Pakistan and the United Kingdom were partners in the fight against terrorism and extremism and that Pakistan remains committed to fight the scourge till its elimination.
Gilani, who is in England on a five day trip following the invitation of British Prime Minister David Cameron to attend a summit to review Enhanced Strategic Dialogue (ECD). He also attended a joint session of the British Parliament on Wednesday, which was also addressed by the Queen.
Addressing a reception here at the House of Commons to meet with British Parliamentarians, on the invitation of High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan,
“We are also together in the common fight against terrorism and extremism. The democratic government has created national ownership to this campaign and has brought all stakeholders on board. Our Parliament has recently reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to the elimination of terrorism and combating extremism in pursuance of our national interest,” he said.
With Pakistan under the spotlight for being a haven where terrorists can plan attacks on other countries, Gilani reasserted that “we have also repeatedly said that we would not allow our territory to be used for any kind of attacks on other countries and we expect that the soil of other countries would not be used against Pakistan.”
He said the sacrifices made by Pakistan in its campaign against militancy, terrorism and extremism were unparalleled, and the resolve of the two countries in this regard remains unshakeable.
Gilani also had an extensive interaction with British parliamentarians and shared experiences of the nascent democracy in Pakistan and the challenges it faced.
Gilani had travelled with Minister for Commerce Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Minister for Information Qamar Zaman Kaira, Minister for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar, Minister for Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Minister for Interior Rehman Malik, Minister for Political Affairs Moula Bukhsh Chandio and Minister of State for Housing Raza Hayat Hiraj, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Social Sector Shahnaz Wazir Ali and Chairman Board of Investment Saleem H Mandviwala. He was joined by the Pakistan High Commissioner to UK Wajid Shamsul Hasan.
Commonwealth a beacon for democracy
The Premier said the forum of Commonwealth has been proudly espousing the cause of democracy and the human rights among the member countries. He recalled how Pakistan became the member of the Commonwealth in 1947 soon after independence, but it was suspended during the military dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq during the eighty’s. However, it was restored once Benazir Bhutto became the Prime Minister.
He said the membership of Pakistan was suspended once more during General Musharraf’s military rule and restored after when a democratically elected government came to power.
“I am happy to state that there is not a single political prisoner in Pakistan today. [The] Media is completely free and the civil society is robust and human rights organisations’ assertions are making qualitative difference as far as the human rights are concerned. Judiciary is free by any stretch of imagination,” Gilani added.
He said at the last Summit of Commonwealth in Perth, Australia, the forum was unanimous in supporting the democratic governments of member states and pledged to foil the designs of those who intend to usurp the rights of the people.
Pakistan, UK for enhancing bilateral trade
Gilani said the governments of Pakistan and UK have also decided to jointly launch a trade and investment promotion roadmap that envisages increased bilateral trade to £2.5 billion by 2015 and to enhance investment opportunities. He said the United Kingdom has been a consistent advocate for Pakistan to gain enhanced trade access to the European Union.
“We are appreciative of the UK support for EU trade concessions for Pakistan and we hope that the United Kingdom would continue supporting Pakistan’s request for GSP Plus,” the Premier said.
He said the ESD covers a wide spectrum of bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest. “I am satisfied that we have made good progress under the ESD framework, and I look forward to holding detailed and wide ranging discussions with Prime Minister Cameron and other members of his cabinet to further intensify this cooperation.”
The Prime Minister expressed his sincere gratitude to the British government and its people for having stood by the people of Pakistan in their difficult times – particularly in the aftermath of unprecedented floods that devastated the country.
Pakistan keen to normalise ties with neighbours
The Prime Minister said Pakistan believes that its agenda for prosperity and development can only be achieved in an environment of peace and security. He said it was in this context that Pakistan was keen to normalise its relations with all neighbours, particularly India and Afghanistan.
Gilani said Pakistan strongly believes that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is an absolute prerequisite for stability and peace in Pakistan.
He reminded the audience that Pakistan was the first to suffer at the hands of strife in Afghanistan and would be the first to benefit from peace in Afghanistan. However, the solution to Afghanistan’s problem lay inside Afghanistan. “It has to come from Afghans and has to be led by Afghans themselves.”
Referring to the improvements made in ties with India, a fellow Commonwealth country, Gilani said Pakistan has made tremendous strides in building a constructive relationship with India.
“We have made significant progress on trade and economic cooperation and are in the process of granting MFN status to India despite hurdles. We have started the dialogue process with India,” Gilani said, before adding that Pakistan wanted to resolve all outstanding issues with India, including that of “Jammu and Kashmir, through an uninterrupted, meaningful and result-oriented dialogue.”
British Member of Parliament Julian Brazier said the presence of many British parliamentarians at the reception spoke of the high value that his country attaches to relations with Pakistan.
He said Britain is serious in strengthening relations with Pakistan.
Pakistan’s High Commissioner to UK Wajid Shamsul Hassan said Pakistan-UK relations were time tested and have grown from strength to strength. He expressed the hope that under the guidance of Prime Minister Gilani, Pakistan could overcome all challenges.