Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham
The hon. Gentleman is right about respect for the rule of law and human rights. Both the countries in question are signatories to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, so on that basis everything needs to be done to ensure that people’s basic human rights are respected, wherever they are.
It is said that the UK’s supply of advanced conventional armaments to India has the potential to aggravate the growing asymmetry between India and Pakistan, which will lead to a lowering of nuclear thresholds. Some in Pakistan consider the UK’s nuclear stance on Pakistan to be unfair and that the UK’s support for India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group and perceived pro-India stance on the Missile Technology Control Regime not only undermines Pakistan-UK bilateral relations but also forces Pakistan to adopt measures in the nuclear domain that it considers to be in its national interest but which may be contrary to the UK’s aspiration within the international nuclear paradigm. The UK-Pakistan defence relationship is strong but not regarded as strategic. A move in that direction could develop even stronger relationships.
One of Pakistan’s biggest challenges and largest opportunities is its growing and young population, which is projected by the UN to increase to more than 300 million by 2050. There is an opportunity to reap that demographic dividend, and Pakistan could be the next South Korea by 2050. According to economist Jim O’Neill, Pakistan has the potential to become the world’s 18th largest economy by 2050—almost the same size of the current German economy.
Lord Maude, UK Minister for Trade and Investment, said in the House of Lords in June 2015 that Pakistan presents “too big an opportunity” to miss. Pakistan has one of the world’s fastest growing middle classes, representing 55% of the total population. In the past three years, consumer spending in Pakistan has increased at an average of 26% compared with 7.7% in Asia as a whole. That increase in consumption-driven demand presents an opportunity for British brands to introduce their products and services to the market, as demonstrated by the success of Debenhams.
Pakistan’s strong relationship with the European Union and the US through the GSP plus programme, which the UK strongly supports, is a significant boost to the country’s exports. Since Pakistan was awarded that status by the EU, exports have increased by 21%, and total UK-Pakistan trade increased by 15% in 2013-2014. The China-Pakistan economic corridor in particular has seen 51 agreements signed, totalling $45.6 billion in 2014, in one of China’s largest overseas investments. The mega-projects that will follow can be given vital assistance by British companies through providing services and expertise to maximize the benefits. Encouraged by that, and in recognition of its being one of the best performing frontier capital markets, Pakistan’s credit rating was upgraded this year by Moody’s for the first time since 2008. The UK Export Finance fund has been revised in order to support the work of publicly managed projects, while the overall size of the fund has increased from £200 to £300 million.
While there is an appetite in the UK to do more business, there are mutual obligations and a moral imperative for Pakistan to reform, including improving the legal process, privatisation, taxation reform and dealing with corruption. Pakistan is rated 127th out of 177 countries on the corruption index. Its controversial and often abused blasphemy laws hinder the country’s international standing, as countries are expected to respect citizens’ human rights and religion freedoms.