Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday lauded the support extended by the United Kingdom (UK) to Pakistan for the GSP Plus status at the European Union and appreciated the Department for International Development (DFID) for its continued development assistance to the country.
The prime minister, who is on an official visit to London, made these remarks during a meeting with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Emphasizing the key thrusts of his government’s agenda, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told the foreign secretary that Pakistan remained committed to economic progress, eradication of terrorism, enhancement of human rights and good governance.
Hague, who was accompanied by Baroness Saeeda Warsi and UK’s High Commissioner to Islamabad Philip Barton, appreciated the government’s economic reforms agenda and offered the UK’s assistance and cooperation in its implementation. The foreign secretary also extended his government’s support to Pakistan in meeting its obligations under the GSP Plus regime.
Deliberating on recent developments in the region, the two leaders discussed the post-election situation emerging in Afghanistan and the security implications of the 2014 withdrawal of ISAF forces from Afghanistan.
Hague also welcomed the government of Pakistan’s efforts towards establishing cordial and cooperative relations with India.
Following the meeting, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by Foreign Secretary Hague and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the presence of the prime minister on the status and operations of the British Council in Pakistan. The MoU manifests the desire of the two countries to further develop and strengthen bilateral ties in educational, scientific, technical and cultural spheres.
Separately, British Home Secretary Theresa May also called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday. The two discussed issues of mutual interest, and reiterated their joint commitment to cooperate in the spheres of counter terrorism and organised crime.
Reiterating Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism, the prime minister said that the country needed technical support in strengthening and upgrading the capacity of law enforcement institutions. Sharif said that while the country was ready to use funds from its national exchequer, it required technical assistance, particularly in establishing state of the art forensic facilities.
Assuring the premier of UK’s support, Secretary May said, “I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm the UK’s commitment to your fight against extremism.”
The home secretary said the British government recognised Pakistan’s commitment and sacrifices in the global war on terror. She said the United Kingdom would extend all possible help to strengthen Pakistan’s capacity in dealing with extremism and terrorism.
Prime Minister Nawaz and Secretary May discussed the value of shared efforts to protect the safety of passengers flying between the UK and Pakistan.
The home secretary said, the British government is investing in Pakistan’s future, not just its history. “The UK and Pakistan have a long history and strong cultural and family connections bind our people together. We want to see Pakistan become more prosperous,” she added.
During the meeting, Secretary May appreciated the Punjab government’s performance, recognizing that the law and order situation was much better in the province in comparison with other parts of the country.
Senior Minister Baroness Saeeda Warsi, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch and PM’s Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatimi also attended the meeting.
During the day, the premier also met UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and discussed matters of mutual interest ranging from counter terrorism to education. Both leaders reiterated their commitment to the drive against terrorism.
PM reassures London investors
As part of his official engagements, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also gave an address at the Pakistan Investment Conference.
Talking to members of the business community, politicians and media personalities, the premier said that his government was extremely keen on increasing British investments in Pakistan.
Wooing investors and highlighting his government’s economic performance, the prime minister said that he had turned the Pakistani economy around in less than a year. He added that Pakistan now appeared to be firmly back on track.
The premier claimed that while his government inherited a challenging macro-economic situation with falling revenues, his economic team worked beyond the call of duty to turn around the country’s economic outlook.
“In less than a year, the macroeconomic framework has seen palpable improvement. Pressure on foreign exchange reserves and Pak Rupee parity has eased. Inflationary pressures have softened,” he said.
Following a meeting with the British prime minister on Wednesday, the two sides reiterated their commitment to increase bilateral trade in a joint statement.
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and his British counterpart vowed to expand cooperation in defence, economy, health and education sectors. A joint statement issued after the meeting said both the sides renewed their commitment to increase bilateral trade to £3billion by 2015.
The British government agreed to help improve the business environment and increase investment in Pakistan.
The statement further said that the two leaders underscored their commitment to support the UK-Pakistan relationship by agreeing to open a new British Deputy High Commission in Lahore.
In the education sector, the British Council will train one million teachers over the next 4 years in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces to help enhance the quality of English language teaching in Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2014.