ISLAMABAD - A delegation led by Justin Greening, Secretary of State for International Development, United Kingdom (UK), called on Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf at PM House Tuesday morning and discussed matters of bilateral interests.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said that Pakistan and United Kingdom enjoy close, historic and cultural relations and have commonality of views on various bilateral and international issues.
While talking to the Prime Minister, Greening said that interest of the United Kingdom in the development of Pakistan could be gauged from the fact that the government of United Kingdom is increasing the strength of its staff in its High Commission in Islamabad to meet the growing requirements of an expanded programme in Pakistan.
The Prime Minister thanked Greening for development assistance of 1.4 billion pounds by the UK Department of International Development, especially in the education and health sectors. It may be added here that Pakistan is one of the largest recipients of development assistance from the United Kingdom.
The Prime Minister also appreciated the personal interest taken by the British Prime Minister in facilitating greater market access to Pakistan in member Countries of European Union.
When asked by Greening to give his views on the upcoming elections, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said that given the history of the country, “completion of tenure by an elected government is a landmark achievement” and expressed the confidence that entire process will be completed peacefully ending in smooth transition of power. “Our main objective is peaceful and transparent elections”, he added.
Expressing the confidence that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) will return to power in the next elections based on its performance and support, the Prime Minister said we have steered the country through difficult times.
Dilating on the economic situation in the country, the Prime Minister said, “We have taken tough decisions to stabilize the economy.” The provinces which are the main recipient of United Kingdom’s assistance have been transferred Rs 5000 billion in the last five years.
Listing the challenges to the economy, the Prime Minister said that meeting the energy deficit and broadening of tax base along with reduction in expenditure and increase allocations for targeted subsidy remain major challenges.
The Prime Minister expressed the hope that certain projects are in the pipeline, which would help overcome the energy problem in the future.
Responding to the concerns of Ms Greening on the difficulties being experienced in vaccination programme for eliminating Polio, the Prime Minister reaffirmed that the government is committed to eradicating Polio. The President of Pakistan is personally overseeing this programme, he emphasized. He informed Ms Greening that security would be provided to Polio teams so that they can carry out their work.
The UK delegation comprised British High Commissioner to Pakistan Adam Thomson, Director DFID Moazzam Malik and Special Advisor Victoria Crawford. Abudl Hafeez Shaikh, Minister for Finance, Ms Hina Rabbani Khar, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and other senior officials were also present during the meeting.
Meanwhile, Justine Greening called on Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar at her office on Friday.
Foreign Minister Khar welcomed Secretary Greening on her first visit to Pakistan since assuming office in September 2012. The two dignitaries discussed a wide range of issues of mutual interest, including UK development assistance to Pakistan, as well as regional and international issues.
The foreign minister apprised Secretary Greening of the steps that the democratic government in Pakistan had taken for ensuring the right to education under the 18th Amendment of the Constitution.
Under the Operational Plan for Pakistan, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) would provide almost £1.4 billion (from 2011-2015), which makes Pakistan the largest recipient of UK development assistance in the world.
The foreign minister expressed her gratitude for the generous development assistance for the education and health sectors in Pakistan. She also appreciated the leading role played by the UK in the European Union for granting Pakistan greater market access through the Autonomous Trade Preferences package.
Secretary Greening expressed satisfaction at the programmes managed by the Department for International Development (DFID).
She also acknowledged the steps taken by the Government of Pakistan in promoting human rights, especially towards protection of women’s rights.