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The hon. Gentleman spoke about taking action against Pakistan. I am sure that he would want to join me in saying that any action would have to be very careful to distinguish between the Government of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan. As I said in my statement, much of the new aid is focused on education, so that reinforces the point that we must be careful not to engage in loose
talkalthough I am not accusing the hon. Gentleman of engaging in itabout what actions we should take. I know that he would accept that any action must be targeted against the perpetrators of the actions that we deplore. We must ensure that the people of Pakistan do not suffer. It is worth noting that the country spends less than 2 per cent. of its national income on education, which makes our educational aid very important. Longer-term discussions are necessary about the path of development that Pakistan sees for itself.
In respect of what the hon. Gentleman called the security test, it is important to re-emphasise how challenging are some of the security dilemmas faced by any Government in Pakistan. When I met President Musharraf in July, he told me not to doubt his determination on security, but to engage with him in debate about tactics. He mentioned the 90,000 troopstroops of the frontier police, not the mainstream armythat he has placed on the border. There is a range of issues about how they are deployed and many whys and wherefores. Rather than saying that the measures have been a success or a failure, it is better to say that further work unquestionably needs to be done, notwithstanding some progress that has been made. We want to ensure that we work with a Government of Pakistan who have a democratic mandate, because that is the best way of taking forward the security agenda. I would also say that the governance of FATAfederally administered tribal areasis a long-standing issue of governance for Pakistan. We need something more than a military solution if we are to make progress in those areas. On its own, a military solution is not enough.
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend accept that those who have had a close and warm relationship with Pakistan over many years and an equally close and warm relationship with the many thousands of people of Pakistani origin who live in my constituency have been deeply concerned at what has taken place over recent days, just as we were concerned about the original military takeover by President Musharraf? That concern exists notwithstanding the many useful things that President Musharraf did in his earlier years as president. Will my right hon. Friend send to Pakistan a message from those in this House who are friends of Pakistan, saying that we look forward to the restoration of the full parliamentary democracy that was bestowed on Pakistan by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of the country, who learned his democracy in the Gallery of this House of Commons?
David Miliband: My right hon. Friend has been a consistent and doughty champion of both Pakistan and the British community of Pakistani heritage. I would certainly want to convey that message and I will do so. He has championed a free, open and democratic Pakistan, which provides the best basis for the countrys development that its people want to see, as well as making Pakistan the best possible ally of the UK. I echo my right hon. Friend in bearing witness to the important historical links that he mentioned.
Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con):
What is the Foreign Secretarys reading of the part played by the Inter-Services Intelligence in Pakistan? Does he share
my concern about the safety of Pakistans nuclear installations? With that in mind, has he had any discussions with India?
David Miliband: We should all be concerned about nuclear installations in all nuclear power countries. We have seen no evidence, however, of any threats or any change in the security of Pakistans nuclear weapons. We are obviously in touch with the Government of India, not least through our own high commission, but there has been no suggestion of any increase in tension between Pakistan and India.
In respect of the ISI, the visible signs are of continued order and continued clear lines of command in the armed forces. The army and intelligence services in Pakistan play an absolutely key role. Obviously, we would always be concerned to ensure that the armed forces and intelligence services in Pakistan answer very clearly to an elected Government. That is the message that we have tried to convey at every opportunity, both publicly and privately. I recognise the hon. Gentlemans concerns, and we are doing our best to ensure that they are understood.
Mr. Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab): I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement and for much that it contains. If Pakistan is to play the role in security that it has, the current leadership does not help its cause by treating human rights, civil liberties campaigners and the press in such a way. If it is to tackle terrorism, it needs to have the eyes and ears of the Pakistani people with it, not against it. I also support my right hon. Friends decision to continue aid, particularly to those non-governmental organisations that want to ensure that democratic institutions are strengthened and that democracy returns as soon as possible.
David Miliband: My hon. Friend puts it very well. He is right that there is DFID funding not only for education but for civil society organisations, earthquake relief and a range of activities to develop Pakistan and strengthen Pakistani-British relations. His reference to the eyes and ears and voice of the Pakistani people is absolutely right. I am convinced that Pakistan has a moderate majority, and we must make sure that its voice is given full vent.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington and Chelsea) (Con): I strongly support the Foreign Secretarys emphasis on the need for Pakistan to move towards democracy and the rule of law. But may I suggest a note of caution? Will he agree that the process of transition in Pakistan will be difficult and dangerous, given the history of that country, the role of the army and its possession of nuclear weapons? In particular, will he learn from the experience of 1979, when western pressure on the Shah, for understandable reasons, led unintentionally not to democracy and the rule of law but to an extremist, Islamist regime in Tehran, with all the problems that the international community now faces? That is not an argument against reform in Pakistan, but it does mean that the west should not seek to destabilise that country as a whole, as that could have incalculable consequences.
I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has taken a long interest in this issue. The relationship between democracy and stability,
and democracy and security, is obviously a delicate one. There are always temptations to say that security comes before democracy, but as he implied, that is dangerous. I am glad that he referred to a transition to democracy, so that we are clear both about the end goal and the fact that there will be steps towards it. If there is a positive outcome in the next few days and weeks in respect of the January elections, I hope that the House will not believe that the Pakistani folder is therefore closed. Some difficult steps remain in the days and months ahead, up to elections and beyond. We are in a unique situation, with President Musharrafs commitment to resign as the head of the army and to lead in a civilian capacity. He has said that he wants a transition to democracy, and the Prime Minister of Pakistan reasserted that to me on the telephone on Monday. It is right to say, however, that the transition needs to be careful.
Some 10 per cent. of the Pakistani population voted for parties that, in some quarters, are alleged to have extremist links or leanings. My judgment is that those people and many others are looking for a path that is respectful of Pakistans religious heritage but that is also committed to modernisation of the country. It is incumbent on the mainstream parties to speak to those aspirations and to ensure that those people are not driven into the hands of extremists. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree, democracy is our ally in that process. The worst thing would be for extremists to be able to claim that there is no other way than extremism for people to have their say, and that they should turn away from the ballot box. That is why democratic rules and elections are important in the short term, as well as building democratic institutions in the longer term.
Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley) (Lab): I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement; I know that many of my constituents will also appreciate it very much. May I ask him to restrain any move towards expelling Pakistan from the Commonwealth? Unless things get really bad, I would rather see it inside the Commonwealth than outside, because we can influence it more that way. Although I am not a fan of military dictators, may I also remind my right hon. Friend that President Musharraf appointed Maleeha Lodhia womanto the high commission in London, and has reserved one third of the seats in the National Assembly, the regional assembly and local authorities for women? That was a brave step, which sends a good message to many Asian women in my constituency.
David Miliband: I am sure the whole House is pleased to know that those who represent the beating heart of the Labour side of the House continue not to be fans of dictators. It is important to have that reasserted.
My hon. Friend has made an important point. It is important for us to see the last eight years in its overall contextas a unique set of circumstances, which we would not have chosen. Someone referred to the events of 1999, but there have been changes that have been welcome both for Pakistan and for the wider international community. The key is to build on those. The tragedy of the last few days is that we threaten to set back those changes rather than building on them, which is what we need to do.
Sarah Teather (Brent, East) (LD): The reaction of many of my Pakistani constituents has ranged from intense anger to acute embarrassment, but perhaps the most depressing reaction from a number of them has been a weary exhausted acceptancea Here we go again. They tell me that they have been waiting for full and fair elections in Pakistan for nine years. They are also critical of our own stance towards Musharraf, feeling that we have been too willing to support him despite the fact that he took over as a dictator and continues to rule without democracy. Does the Foreign Secretary think we have been naïve in the past to believe Musharrafs promises of imminent elections?
David Miliband: I do not believe that any member of the Governmentincluding my predecessors, one of whom has just walked inhas been naïve at any stage. Records that I have seen, and conversations in which I have engaged, have revealed in our relationship with Pakistan a clear emphasis on the fact that democracy and free and fair elections are a vital part of its future. That is one reason why human rights and constitutional rule were built into our partnership agreement. As I have said, it would be a tragedy if we began to take backward steps and revisit some of the issues that have taken the country forward over the last four or five years. We are determined to do all we can to avoid that.
Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): On an earlier occasion when there were difficulties in Pakistan we considerably reduced the number of our staff working in Islamabad, which has one of the busiest high commissions in the world. My constituents were greatly inconvenienced by that. Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that we will keep our staff in Islamabad for as long as possible throughout the present difficulties, while of course maintaining their safety?
David Miliband: When I spoke to the high commissioner at the weekend just as these events were taking place, one of the questions that I asked him concerned the security of our own staff. He assured me that there was no suggestion of any threat to them. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice has just whispered to me, when the number of staff was reduced a few years ago, that was because there were threats to those concerned. As long as there is no threat to staff, there will be no change in their deployment.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): While I wholly endorse the Foreign Secretarys general approachand also the wise words of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Sir Malcolm Rifkind)does the Foreign Secretary agree that it would be folly to demonise Musharraf? There are dictators and dictators, and this dictator has been, to a degree, an enlightened one.
We shall come to the finer distinctions of dictatorship when obituaries need to be written. My concernwhich I am sure the hon. Gentleman sharesis for the people of Pakistan. As he spoke up from a sedentary position when my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mrs. Cryer) raised the issue of expulsion from the Commonwealth, I thought that he was going to ask about that. In
response to an earlier question I referred specifically to a suspension rather than an expulsion. That is an important aspect of this issue, and we must consider it.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): Do we not have to be unambiguously in favour of democracy rather than slightly ambivalent about dictatorship? If there are to be free and fair elections in Pakistan, is it not important that the following two preconditions are met: that the Government honour the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly, and that the independent electoral commission must be genuinely independent, must have some power and, most importantly, must have enough resourcesso that it can put in place an accurate electoral register, for instance?
David Miliband: My hon. Friend raises an important point. Let me expand on what he said about the independent electoral commission. One criterion is that it must be genuinely independent. As well as having full roles, it must have people policing those roles who are, and are seen to be, independent. That matter has been raised with me by Ms Bhutto and also, publicly, by other opposition politicians. We must ensure that the elections are seen through, and I agree with my hon. Friend that the rights that he mentions are universal rights, not particular ones.
Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): The Foreign Secretary has acknowledged some of the extreme pressures that have led to these unwise decisions. Another pressure is the continuing running sore of Kashmir, an overwhelmingly Islamic province. Last years Mumbai bombings made clear the extent to which it acts as a recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda. Does the Foreign Secretary not agree that one of the ways in which we can strengthen moderate voices in Pakistan is by encouraging India in the modest steps that it has taken over the past two or three years towards engagement on that issue?
David Miliband: The hon. Gentlemans point might have had more purchase some years ago. I have been encouraged over the past few yearscertainly since the engagement between President Musharraf and former Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee and the composite dialogue they establishedthat the discussion of Kashmir has been put in a much safer box. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that it remains an issue for many people, not least in our country, but saying that it is currently a running sore creates the danger of giving the impression that it causes more problems than it does. Emotions are high and it remains an important issue, but we should recognise the steps that both Pakistan and India have taken to address that issue in a sensible fashion.
Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): Further to the views expressed by other Opposition Members, does the Foreign Secretary accept that the worst thing that could happen would be the descent of Pakistan into a radical, Islamic fundamentalist nuclear state? If he reaches the conclusion that that could happen, will he accept that he has some very tough decisions to make?
David Miliband: I do not think that any such decisions are easy. Careful judgments must be made. There is a range of worst-case scenariosthere is not only one worst caseand I would be happy to talk to the hon. Gentleman about some of the worst cases that might arise. The one that he has raised would certainly contain real dangers, but there are many dangers in this situation, and we need to handle them carefully, with our international partners who also have influence there.
Mr. Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): The events in Pakistan over the past few weeks are potentially the most potent threat to world stability since 2001, for the reasons that my hon. Friends have mentioned. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that, notwithstanding our support for the constitutional path to free and fair elections, the most important thing, before January 15 next year, is that our Government should do nothing diplomatically, politically or financially to undermine the role of General Musharraf, because if that happened we would run the risk of an armed coup and a consequent backlash by Islamic fundamentalists, which would be disastrous for world security?
David Miliband: I do not want to introduce too high a note of discord at this stage of our discussions, but five or six Opposition Members have referred to the differences between different sorts of dictators and the need to be careful about the language we use against President Musharraf. I think that the goals that the Govt are formally committed to in Pakistanthe goals shared by President Musharraf and Prime Minister Azizinvolving a democratic transition, are the goals that we should clearly emphasise are in the vital interests of Pakistan. If we start to compromise on that, we will end up in a dangerous situation. I do not want any message to go out from here that somehow we are compromising on the transition to democracy; that is absolutely vital. I urge the hon. Gentleman to be very careful about giving any messages that might lead people to claim that that impression had been given.
Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): The Foreign Secretary described the situation as both dangerous and fast-moving. Those are powerful but accurate words. Should the situation deteriorate, there will be many who will choose to leave the country. How many UK passport holders are in Pakistan, and what initial plans are being thought of, possibly to return them to the UK?
David Miliband: One of the striking things over the last three days has been the fact that peace and order have been present on the streets. There are no plans for mass or other evacuations from Pakistan. If the hon. Gentleman wants a specific answer regarding the number of British nationals who we think are in Pakistan at the moment, I will write to him about that figure.
Mr Secretary Hain, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Straw, Secretary Des Browne, Mr. Secretary Hutton, Secretary Ed Balls, Mr. Secretary Woodward, Mr. James Plaskitt and Mrs. Anne McGuire, presented a Bill to establish the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission; to amend the law relating to child support; to make provision about lump sum payments to or in respect of persons with diffuse mesothelioma; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time and Second time without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 80A (Carry-over of b ills) and Order [4 July 2007]; and ordered to be considered tomorrow and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 3].
Mr. Secretary Straw, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Jacqui Smith, Secretary Alan Johnson, Mr. Secretary Hutton, Secretary Ed Balls, Mr. Secretary Woodward and Mr. David Hanson, presented a Bill to make further provision about criminal justice (including provision about the police) and dealing with offenders and defaulters; to provide for the establishment and functions of Her Majestys Commissioner for Offender Management and Prisons and to make further provision about the management of offenders; to amend the criminal law; to make further provision for combatting crime and disorder; to make provision about the mutual recognition of financial penalties; to make provision for a new immigration status in certain cases involving criminality; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First and Second time without Question put, and stood committed to a Public Bill Committee in respect of clauses 10 to 129 and schedules 5 to 23, pursuant to Standing Order No. 80A (Carry-over of b ills) and Order [8 October 2007]; and ordered to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 1].
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