Nation special report
LONDON: Pakistan Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal who paid two-day official visit to the UK last week and held meetings with ministers and discussed a wide range of issues of common interest including various challenges being confronted to his country.
Ahsan Iqbal briefed them about the overall regional situation, various challenges conflicting to his country and Kashmir issue. A PHC spokesman said that he had very useful interactions with the British leadership, Pakistani community, think tanks, British Pakistani parliamentarians, and media. Meeting with Boris Johnson Ahsan Iqbal met with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in London on Tuesday. He briefed the Foreign Secretary that Pakistan is undergoing a remarkable transformation as a result of improved security situation, impressive economic growth and consolidation of democratic institutions. He further said that Pakistan greatly appreciates UK’s role as our important trade and investment partner.
The Minister informed the Foreign Secretary in detail about Pakistan’s efforts to eliminate extremism and terrorism from the country. Boris Johns on commended Pakistan’s economic reforms agenda and acknowledged that Pakistan has great potential for economic growth. He said that UK is hugely interested in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and would like to benefit from opportunities arising from this initiative.
The Foreign Secretary particularly appreciated Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts to bring about peace in the region and the world at large. He said that UK greatly values its friendship with Pakistan and was looking forward to further strengthening these ties. Meeting with Caroline Nokes Ahsan Iqbal had another meeting with Mrs Caroline Nokes, Minister of State for Immigration.
He specifically raised the problems being faced by Pakistani students and business people in getting British visas. Mrs Caroline assured the Minister that she would look into the matter and all possible facilitation would be extended to the Pakistani students and business people.
The two sides agreed that in order to enhance people to people and business to business linkages, visa bottlenecks would be removed. The Minister also met with Mr. John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, the same day. The two sides held detailed discussion on bilateral cooperation in areas of economy and finance. Address at IISS Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday gave a talk at the International Institute of Strategic Studies(IISS), in London. The topic was: Pakistan’s vision for the future.
The talk was attended by a select gathering of think tank notables, academia, policy influentials, political analysts and members of the diplomatic community. In his talk, he dwelt upon Pakistan’s economic turnaround, improvement in security and regional situation. Besides, the Minister addressed a press conference at the Pakistan High Commission in the evening.
He also gave interviews to London-based international media outlets. Meeting with Lord Tariq Ahmad Ahsan Iqbal met with Lord Tariq Ahmad, UK’s Minister of State for Commonwealth and UN, in London on Monday. A wide range of bilateral relations pertaining to enhancing the role of Commonwealth, development cooperation, bilateral trade and diaspora came under discussion. Acting High Commissioner Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri accompanied the Minister. The Interior Minister apprised Lord Ahmad that Pakistan was looking forward to high level participation in the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London this year. He added that Pakistan, as a founding member of the Commonwealth, shares and promotes its core values of democracy, human rights and peace. The Minister emphasized on the need to further enhancing the role of the organisation in future, particularly in the area of intra-Commonwealth trade.
Both sides expressed satisfaction over excellent bilateral relations between the two countries. Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that Pakistan greatly appreciates UK’s development assistance to Pakistan for the uplift of its socioeconomic sectors. Appreciating the role of Pakistani diaspora in the UK, the two sides said that the British Pakistanis serve as a strong bridge between our two countries and people. Lord Ahmad said that the UK government would continue its support for the socio-economic development of Pakistan. It was agreed that the two countries would continue to work together for further strengthening the bilateral relations. Meeting with David Gauke Mr Ahsan Iqbal, Interior Minister of Pakistan, who is on an official visit to the UK, met with Mr. David Gauke, Secretary of State for Justice in London today. Acting High Commissioner, Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri accompanied the Minister.
The two sides discussed to reoperationalise the prisoners exchange programme between the two countries. In this regard, Minister Ahsan Iqbal emphasised on the need of providing full facilitation for the families of the Pakistani prisoners. The cooperation in prosecution was also discussed in detail.
The Minister expressed the desire to benefit from the best practices in vogue in the UK in the area of prosecution. In this regard, the Minister proposed to form a Joint Working Group (JWG) between the two countries at the earliest to initiate prosecution reforms process in Pakistan. Mr. David Gauke agreed to the proposal. Mr Ahsan Iqbal briefed the Justice Secretary on Pakistan’s success fulfight against extremism and terrorism which resulted in significant improvement in the security of the country. Mr David Gauke commended the progress made by Pakistan in the field of counter-terrorism. Both sides agreed to work together for promotion of justice and rule of law.
Addresses to diaspora Mr Ahsan Iqbal, Interior Minister of Pakistan has called upon the Pakistani diaspora to play their role in the economic development of the country. Pakistan is undertaking ambitious energy and connectivity projects which require building foreign exchange reserves. Overseas Pakistanis can make valuable contribution by developing connections between Pakistan and rest of the world to promote Pakistani exports and bringing foreign investment in Pakistan besides sending more remittances through official channels.
He cautioned that certain countries don’t want to see CPEC complete and successful and creating enormous problems. “You have to fail their ulterior designs”, he asked the participants. He appreciated diaspora’s critical role in Pakistan’s development and progress, and invited them to take maximum advantage of new business and investment opportunities on offer in Pakistan. The Minister was speaking at a dinner reception hosted in his honour by the Pakistan High Commission, London where he addressed the members of the Pakistani diaspora and held a Q&A session with them. Giving an overview of Pakistan, the Minister said that remarkable transformation is underway in Pakistan, underpinned by the improved security situation, impressive economic growth and consolidation of democratic institutions. Four years ago the world was looking at us as one of the most dangerous places in the world, today Pakistan is looked at as one of the fastest emerging economies in the world. This is the real change government has brought about in Pakistan. Speaking about China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Minister said that it symbolizes the regional connectivity based development vision of Pakistan. He added that CPEC is an important part of the Vision 2025 of the current government which believes that economic integration of the region is critical for shared prosperity.
The Minister stated that due to economic reforms agenda of the Government together with CPEC related investment, Pakistan has successfully overcome energy crisis in the country. He informed: “The economic growth of the country was 5.3% last year and we are expecting it to touch the figure of 6% this year.It was at 3% when the current government came into power. From 1947 to 2013, 18,000 MW electricity was produced in total where as in the last four years, 11,000 MW electricity has been added to the national grid which has significantly increased our industrial growth. Out of the US $46 billion CPEC investment, US$29 billion investment has already been energized. Moreover, we are harnessing solar, coal, and hydel power generation resources. All this has set Pakistan on upward economic trajectory and made it an attractive destination for global investment.”
The Minister assured the community of all possible facilitation at the airport, and safety of their investment in Pakistan. He further informed that government is considering re-starting POC for overseas Pakistanis. Similarly, the E-Visa service is also being contemplated for maximum facilitation to the overseas community, foreign visitors and investors, added the Minister.
Acting High Commissioner, Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry welcomed the Minister at the High Commission. In his remarks, he commended the important role of the Minister in turning around the economy of the country. A large number of diaspora and representatives of media attended the reception. Earlier the Minister held a meeting with the British Pakistani Parliamentarians and discussed Pakistan-UK bilateral relations with them. He apprised the Parliamentarians that people of Pakistan are proud of their presence in the British Parliament and of the constructive role they are playing in strengthening bilateral relations.