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Philip Barton says he is optimistic than ever about future of Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Feb 03 (DNA): The British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Philip Barton CMG OBE on Wednesday delivered his farewell speech at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad.The seminar was entitled ‘The Future of UK-Pakistan Relations: A Departing Perspective’, and was delivered to an audience of dignitaries from across politics, media and academia.

The High Commissioner began the speech by saying: “I leave Pakistan next week at the end of my tenure as High Commissioner, after my two years here, but also having first visited the country more than 20 years ago. But I leave more optimistic than ever about the future of the country. I believe the country is now on a positive trajectory in four crucial areas – democracy, security, the economy and regional relationships.

“I salute the bravery of the Pakistan military – and their civilian counterparts in the police and other law enforcement agencies – as they carry out the very difficult task of tackling terrorism across the country. The Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies’ statistics show a 48% fall in terrorist related attacks in 2015. Pakistan offers its people democracy, which is more than can be said for 40% of the world’s population. The security situation is improving. The economy is growing – and poised to accelerate, if further structural reforms can be made.”

The High Commissioner set out reasons why Pakistanis can be positive about the country’s future, given improvements in the economy, the security situation, democracy and the relationship Pakistan has with its neighbours.

He outlined the positive role the UK had in Pakistan in the past, and the partnership we would like to continue in the future.

The High Commission set out the breadth of the UK relationship: “Through UK Aid and the work of the Department for International Development, there are 1.3 million Pakistanis who have had microfinance loans thanks to the UK. We have helped 270,000 women gets CNIC cards supporting their citizenship rights. 5.2 million of the poorest families in Pakistan are being supported by the Benazir Income Support Programme, part-funded by the UK. This programme is also providing incentives to over 1 million children to attend and stay in school, through its conditional education transfers. Nearly 1 million births have been attended by professionals supported by the UK.

“On education, 6.3 million Pakistani primary school children have benefited from direct UK support. The British Council will train 1 million teachers of English by 2018, to help improve the way English is taught in schools. Every year, the British Council enables 220,000 people to take nearly half a million UK exams here in Pakistan. We have helped 118 Pakistani Universities to develop partnerships with over 90 universities in the UK.

“We have quadrupled our Chevening scholarship programme for people to study fully-funded Masters degrees at the UK’s top universities. There are now some 1300 Pakistani Chevening Alumni.

“Thanks to the UK-backed Counter-terrorism Associated Prosecution Reform Initiative conviction rates in terrorism cases have increased from 5% to over 50% in Punjab and from 3% to over 30% in Khyber Pakhtunwa. 91 public prosecutors representing every province of
Pakistan have either completed or are undergoing intensive, bespoke 12-week counter terrorism training. 5000 military and law enforcement personnel have been trained in countering IEDs.”

The High Commissioner also argued that people in Pakistan now have more space to think about the longer term future, including challenges around demography, the environment and the economy.

He concluded, “I am very confident about the future relationship between the UK and Pakistan. We are of course linked by history. One of the highlights of my time in Pakistan was to visit the Regimental Museum of the Punjab Regiment – my grandfather’s regiment – in Mardan and to be shown three documents (from among the 400,000 the museum holds) thathe had signed in the 1920s.

“But it is the people to people links that represent the present and the future. They are why the partnership between the UK and Pakistan is enduring.” DNA

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