European Union (EU) ambassador to Pakistan, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, accompanied by 11 envoys of member countries, reached Swat valley on a two-day visit on Wednesday.
Talking to the media, Wigemark, who is heading the delegation, said that today’s visit by ambassadors of EU member countries to Swat valley is a vote of confidence for the restoration of peace in the restive valley by the military and the people.
“We have been working through a multi-donor trust fund in various fields which has set aside $140 million for the rehabilitation of Malakand division affected by a military operation in 2009,” he added. The EU has provided 70 per cent of the funds and is the largest donor.
The EU ambassador said it is our priority to contribute towards providing education and vocational skills to the young generation. “We are investing about €300 million in the coming four to five years in K-P. Swat and Malakand division are our top priority.”
The high-level delegation was briefed by Malakand Division Operation Commander, Maj. Gen. Ghulam Qamar regarding Swat operation at Khwaza Khela. The delegation visited Mishal Deradicalisation Centre where they met former militants.
Praising the Pakistan Army for establishing Mishal Centre, he said, “It is very impressive to see how these people are being imparted skills in very practical ways.”
Wigemark said the EU was trying to integrate all its programmes including education, vocational training, energy, agriculture. He said the EU was also supporting the United Nations Refugees Programme in order to facilitate refugees returning home in various parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P.
He affirmed the EU’s commitment to assist civil society by rebuilding it through local communities. “Most importantly, we are empowering local communities particularly at the union council level because we believe in a grassroots approach.”
The EU ambassador seemed much impressed by the breathtaking beauty of Swat and promised to encourage his colleagues to visit the valley more frequently. “We enjoyed the dazzling beauty of Swat, particularly the snow-clad mountains in the backdrop and the lush-green valley.” The people are very friendly and helpful,” Wigemark added.
The delegation also visited to Butkara 1, a rich archeological site in Mingora.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2012.