Thursday

3rd Dec 2020

Pakistan to EU: Help us to fight terrorism

  • Qureshi: 'Obviously, to build a [democratic] culture which has not been invoked for decades ... it will take time' (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Pakistani foreign minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi has urged the EU to keep aid flowing in order to help combat extremism in the aftermath of the floods disaster.

Speaking at a hearing in the EU Parliament in Brussels on Thursday (14 October), the minister said: "If you want to help us fight extremism and terrorism one way of doing that is making Pakistan economically stable."

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"If you are dealing with extremism, you know, the long term solution to extremism is education. You have to educate people. Because we've seen the areas which are high on illiteracy and high on poverty - that is the catchment area for the extremists for their recruitment. So this investment will have a very long-term impact on stabilising the situation vis-a-vis insurgency. So market access will be very useful and it will help the economy."

The Pakistani foreign minister did not explicitly refer to the recent terror alert by the US and UK about a new al-Qaeda plot targeting the EU.

But his remarks come in the context of fears that extremists trained in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas are planning to carry out an attack on EU tourist attractions on the model of the 2008 Mumbai attack, when gunmen opened fire on civilians in the Indian city.

The European Commission will in the next few days table a legal proposal to temporarily reduce tariffs for a set of 75 mostly textile-based Pakistani products in a trade-relief measure worth €140 million.

The proposal comes on top of €320 million of EU aid pledged since the floods struck in July. The Asian Development Bank and the World Bank estimate that the disaster has caused $9.5 billion of damage. The Pakistani government says long-term reconstruction will cost up to $45 billion.

Mr Qureshi and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton will in Brussels and Friday chair a minister-level meeting of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan group on the issue of long-term flood relief and Pakistani government reform.

EU textile-producing countries such as France, Italy and Portugal reportedly oppose the EU-Pakistan trade measure. But Ms Ashton and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a press briefing in Brussels on Thursday raised broader concerns about poor standards of governance.

"The international community can only do so much. Pakistan itself must take immediate and substantial action to mobilise its own resources," Ms Clinton said. "It is absolutely unacceptable for those with means in Pakistan not to be doing their fair share to help their own people, while the taxpayers of Europe, the United States and other contributing countries are all chipping in."

The issue came of good governance also came up in the EU Parliament hearing.

Portuguese centre-left MEP Ana Gomes, a former Portuguese ambassador to the UN and to Indonesia, alleged that Mr Qureshi's government is not really in charge.

"The fear is that those who are elected are not really in control. Who is in control is the military structure, is namely the military intelligence structure, and that is why we see so many problems," she said.

The Pakistani minister did not deny the claim, but noted that the country is in a process of transition in terms of democracy and human rights.

"Let me assure you that today, to be fair, we have in command a person who has overseen the transition to democracy. Today the military leadership is commanded by an individual who has facilitated that procedure and who toes the line of the elected political government and that's the way it ought to be," he replied. "Obviously, to build a [democratic] culture which has not been invoked for decades ... it will take time. Old habits die hard, but we have made that transition and we are in the process of that transition."

For its part, leading charity Oxfam on Thursday called for international lenders to drop Pakistan's $55 billion debt. It embarrassed France by noting that Paris has pocketed $62 million in debt repayments so far this year, which amounts to "more than 15 times its direct contribution to the flood response."

The Paris-based publication, Intelligence Online, back in July reported that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on a visit to France at the height of the floods negotiated an arms deal with French firms Thales and Sagem worth up to €400 million. Thales denied the report when contacted by this website.

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