UK supports Pakistan in fighting militancy

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Mar 1, 2013.

Islamabad – The United Kingdom (UK) is standing “shoulder-to-shoulder” with Pakistan in fighting terrorism and discussions are already under way on ways the British can help with implementation of the internal security policy recently announced by the Pakistani interior minister, according to the British High Commissioner Philip Barton.

Barton was speaking to the media at his residence in the federal capital, a day after he officially presented his letter of credentials from Her Majesty the Queen of England to the President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain as the new British High Commissioner.

The British envoy, who arrived in Pakistan in January, said it was not for him to comment on policies the government of Pakistan took in terms of military operation against militants or talks.

“[But] we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the government as they tackle terrorism in this country and we will absolutely support the government as it takes forward its efforts in this area,” he said.

The High Commissioner’s comments come at a time when the Pakistani military is engaged in carrying out targeted strikes against militant hideouts in the Waziristan and other parts of the tribal areas.

Even though Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar denied it had launched a military operation against militants, reports suggest such an operation is being discussed between political and military leadership.

Barton termed the internal security policy, unveiled this past week by minister Nisar in parliament as part of Pakistan’s first-ever National Security Policy, a “very important” strategy.

“We are already in discussions with the government that how we can support them in the implementation and delivery of that strategy,” the British High Commissioner said.

He said the UK has already been collaborating with Pakistan on security issues in the past.

“[The collaboration is] in terms of discussing strategy on how best to tackle the problem and practical ways such as providing assistance on how you can bring criminals to justice,” Barton said.

The UK envoy reiterated his commitment of focusing on the three areas of trade, education and security, which he had also mentioned previously in January during his first media briefing after arriving in Pakistan.

Barton said the two countries are aiming to raise bilateral trade and investment to £3 billion per year by 2015.

In order to achieve this target, he said, he will focus on making British businesses aware about good business opportunities in Pakistan.

He said he will also work with Pakistani government to bring about a business-friendly environment in Pakistan and ensure that Pakistani companies are in the best position to utilize the European Union’s Generalized System of Preference Plus award.

Responding to a question about “irritants” in Pak-UK bilateral relationship, Barton said even in the best of relationships, there are going to be differences of view.

He said it is his job to explain the UK perspective to the government of Pakistan and to also explain back to London the Pakistani perspective.

“When differences do arrive, there is a grown-up, open, transparent conversation about those differences and that we try and resolve them,” the High Commissioner said.

Barton said there is no formal extradition treaty between the two countries. But he said if there is a request from either government to the other, it is “treated on a case-by-case basis.”

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