LONDON: Pakistan and the United Kingdom on Tuesday agreed to form a joint working group to formulate a strategy for strengthening bilateral ties in multiple spheres, including trade and investment.
The bilateral ties were discussed during a meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women and Equality Liz Truss wherein the former put forward a proposal for formation of a joint working group.
Following the meeting, the foreign minister told the media that the secretary of state had accepted his proposal for a joint working group so that the two countries could mutually assist each other in strengthening bilateral ties.
He said the two countries would complete 75 years of diplomatic ties next year so both sides stressed the need for further strengthening the ties.
FM discusses Afghanistan, Kashmir situation with British counterpart, chairs of House of Commons committees
Mr Qureshi also invited his British counterpart to visit Pakistan to attend the fifth round of Pakistan-UK Strategic Dialogue, which she accepted. He said both sides discussed bilateral cooperation, Afghanistan as well as the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
The foreign minister thanked the UK for continuing GSP plus facility for Pakistan which resulted in increasing bilateral trade by 32 per cent last year despite the Covid-19 pandemic. He called for exploiting the potential of 1.6 million Pakistani diaspora in the UK to enhance trade and investment.
Ms Truss told Mr Qureshi that the UK special envoy on trade would visit Islamabad to discuss way forward with Pakistan’s trade ministry.
When the foreign minister proposed that both countries should initiate a discussion on free trade agreement, the secretary of state said they could form a joint commission on the subject.
Mr Qureshi said Pakistan had last year received record remittances of $4 billion from the UK and thanked the British Pakistani community as well as the UK government for its positive role.
The foreign minister also handed over the copy of a well-researched dossier to the secretary of state in which Pakistan has documented over 3,000 cases of human rights abuses in IIOJK that fall under the category of war crimes.
He said Indian actions in the occupied territory were also a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention as the country was carrying out a demographic reengineering to convert the Muslim majority state into a Muslim minority territory.
Lauding the UK’s advocacy for human rights, Mr Qureshi said its application should not be selected or in one part of the world as the human rights abuses were being overlooked in IIOJK.
Meeting with chairs of House of Commons panels Foreign Minister Qureshi also met the chairs of House of Commons committees and discussed with them the regional situation, bilateral relations and other issues of mutual interest.
The foreign minister received Chair of House of Commons Select Committee for Foreign Affairs MP Tom Tugendhat, Chair of House of Commons Select Committee for Defence MP Tobias Ellwood, as well as MPs Henry Smith and Steve Baker at Pakistan High Commission in London.
Mr Qureshi conveyed Pakistan’s perspective on the unfolding developments in Afghanistan and the need for the international community to stay engaged while averting a humanitarian crisis and economic collapse in the war-torn country, the Foreign Office in Islamabad said in a statement.
He also briefed the parliamentarians on the humanitarian and human rights situation in IIOJK and shared with them the dossier on war crimes perpetrated by Indian occupation forces in the held territory.
Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2021