$9 billion pledge indicates world confidence in Pak.
ISLAMABAD - Acting British High Commissioner to Pakistan Andrew Dalgleish says that the exchange of high level visits between the United Kingdom and Pakistan is likely to resume this year.
In an exclusive panel interview with The Nation here at his office, the envoy said that the British High Commission aimed to revive higher level visits between the two friendly countries after Covid affected such interactions.
“I will expect my country to send ministers and likewise UK would be looking forward to the (ministers) visits from Pakistan. It’s good when senior people meet and take decisions,” he told the panel led by Editor of The Nation Salman Masood and Special Correspondent Shafqat Ali.
The Acting High Commissioner assured that the Pakistani businesspersons will get visas on priority. “We have introduced quick service where the applicant has to pay a little more for faster process. There is also a superfast service for even quicker processing,” he elaborated.
The envoy said education visas were being approved at a remarkably high ratio. “The tourism has also improved after the Covid,” Andrew Dalgleish added. About his experience in Pakistan, the senior British diplomat said it was great but hectic. “I have never worked so hard in my life because on the one hand is a very, very big High Commission, one of our biggest embassies in the world, but also because there’s been an awful lot happening, much of it good, but some of it’s a lot more challenging. Like the flooding,” he explained.
UK’S HELP FOR PAKISTANI FLOOD VICTIMS
Andrew Dalgleish said the UK was one of the first countries to step up and find some immediate humanitarian assistance to help when things were at their worst during the floods.
“And we should acknowledge,of course, that we are not out of this. There are still many parts of Pakistan underwater, people still facing a lot of distress, not enough food. So it’s not because perhaps the international media is talking about other things that the problem has gone away. We are very conscious of that,” he remarked. Andrew Dalgleish said the UK stepped forward with immediate humanitarian assistance, and it changed all the work in the British High Commission.
“We realised that these floods would now affect every aspect of the work that we did. Our engagement with Pakistan changed to provide not just financial assistance and assistance in kind with equipment and material, but also assistance in working with the government of Pakistan to figure out next steps for how we prepared jointly, collectively, as an international community to make a successful floods conference,” he highlighted.
The acting High Commissioner appreciated Pakistan’s role in the January 9 climate conference, in Geneva. “The government of Pakistan did a tremendous amount of hard work in preparing for that conference, which was very successful, of course,” he said.
He underscored that $9 billion were pledged at the conference. “And the key thing now is the plan for implementation. We are still dealing with a humanitarian crisis, as I said, but we are also working with the government of Pakistan on that longer term reconstruction. And I think the crucial element of that, which is well acknowledged, is that the floods that we saw last year, unfortunately, we will probably see them again at some point and with increasing regularity because of climate change. So we can’t afford to build back the way things were before. We need to build back, mindful of a need to adapt and become more resilient to our changing climate,” the envoy stressed. He said the UK was continuing to consider Pakistan’s situation regarding the flood’s destruction.
“Because I don’t know how many schools were destroyed by the floods, I don’t have the number, but I know a significant number of schools were destroyed by the floods. The needs for maintaining access to education in those flood space areas, very important, and that will be influencing our thinking,” he underlined. The envoy emphasized that $9 billion were committed for reconstruction of the flood hit areas at the Geneva Conference.
“That’s a separate question to what money is needed now for economic reasons. And I think it’s important not to mix the two. If we say to ourselves, there’s $9 billion available to Pakistan, our economic Pakistan’s economic concerns are over, then we are misrepresenting the situation. So the $9 billion will need to be carefully spent. And the government of Pakistan are clear about this. They’re not asking the international community to pay for everything. I think they’ve estimated they (Pakistan) need $16 billion,” the Acting High Commissioner said.
NEED FOR A CLEAR PLAN OF ACTION BY PAKISTANI GOVERNMENT FOR FLOOD REHABILITATION
Andrew Dalgleish said that for making the funds available, the international community needs a clear plan from Pakistan.
“This means, this is how we are going to spend this money. What won’t happen is $9 billion will be dumped into Pakistan’s bank account and they will then figure out what to do,” he stressed.
Andrew Dalgleish said there would not have been a $9 billion commitment in Geneva if there was not a certain amount of confidence of the international community in the Pakistani government.
“I can see as an observer that urgency is an important part of what happens. Clearly, Pakistan needs to get it right, but there is inescapably an element of emergency there for the unfortunate people affected by the flooding. And also when it comes to the economic situation, Pakistan doesn’t have the luxury of time. Steps need to be taken with that sense of urgency to demonstrate concrete action towards delivery, whether that’s on the floods or whether that’s demonstrating to the international community that the IMF review is being completed. And that’s a very important,” the envoy said.
2023 AM EXICTING YEAR
To a question, Andrew Dalgleish said 2023 was quite an exciting year. “We have got quite a lot going on in our country, and, of course, Pakistan is a fellow member of the Commonwealth. I am delighted about the opportunity to celebrate, for example, the coronation of King Charles on the 6 May. We will have our first king’s birthday party in due course as well. And that’s a theme, if you like, that builds on the sporting theme that we saw last year. You mentioned the cricket. We had the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham too, where Pakistan was represented,” he said.
He further said: “So from the point of view of what we can celebrate together, that’s quite exciting. We will continue working with Pakistan on the floods the UK has committed.”
CRICKET AND TASTY PAKISTANI DAAL
Andrew Dalgleish appreciated the revival of international cricket in Pakistan and the visit of the England cricket team.
“The atmosphere in Rawalpindi was electric. I watched the match and the stadium was packed,” he said, adding the two countries were likely to have exchange of visits in other sports too. “We are trying to have the England women team to visit Pakistan in the future,” Andrew Dalgleish said. The envoy showered praise on the Pakistani food and especially appreciated the daal (a dish made with lentils). “Pakistani food is popular back in the UK as well," he said.