Britain’s support in attaining universal school enrolment in the Punjab discussed.
Insurgencies should be addressed with political as well as military interventions, the outgoing British High Commissioner Adam Thomson told the media on his last official visit to Lahore on Friday.
“It is Pakistan’s sovereign decision to decide whether to call for peace talks with the Taliban,” said Thomson. He said the solution to the problem of terrorism often required a mix of political and military components. “The political component is important…the mix varies with each case,” he said.
By 2014, the Afghan National Army will have developed the capacity to manage the security of Afghanistan, he said. The international community will provide financial assistance to Afghanistan and some troops will stay back in “supporting roles”.
Thomson said, “Everything is not perfect in Afghanistan. Britain has always said there is no military solution without a political component.”
He said it was important for Britain to ensure that Pakistan succeeded in winning its war on terrorism. Thomson said the government, in collaboration with British authorities, was working on a programme to formulate a strategy for the prosecution of terrorists. He said the programme was in its second year… it could take up to seven years before its effectiveness could be measured. Britain was also helping Pakistan in training its police and army to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs), he said.
The Department for International Development (DFID)has been running its largest education programme in collaboration with the provincial government, he said. They wanted to focus on improving primary education and transforming the available infrastructure for children in the five to nine years age bracket.
Quoting figures from the Punjab School Reforms Roadmap, he said more than a million additional children had been enrolled in schools since 2010. Teachers’ attendance had increased from 81 per cent to 93 per cent across the province. Thomson said Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had not gotten enough credit for his work particularly in education. By 2018, he said, the province was likely to come very close to its target of universal enrolment.
The DFID had signed an MoU with the Lahore University of Management Sciences this week for funding scholarships. Thomson said that would help bright and deserving students obtain higher education. Under the five-year support programme, the DFID will allocate Rs1.2 billion for as many as 1,000 students who wanted to pursue higher education at LUMS. Thomson said they hoped that half of those students would be girls.
On the topic of sustainability of development projects in the country, he said Pakistan was not fundamentally dependant on foreign aid. “There can be no greater success for Britain than to bring Pakistan to a stage where it doesn’t need aid. Pakistan needs trade not aid,” he said. Thomson added that Pakistan was likely to achieve the GSP Plus status next week. This would allow Pakistan greater trade access to the European Union, he said. “I hope that international cricket returns to Pakistan,” said Thomson. “There is still a long way to go before international boards can be persuaded to bring their teams here.”
“But the international community needs to support Pakistan in order to counter violent extremism and terrorism,” he added.
Addressing the issue of Pakistan’s “bad global image”, he said it was unfortunate that people abroad were only shown the negative aspects of Pakistan. “The federal and provincial governments need to tell its story better,” he said.