Islamabad, February 25, 2018 (PPI-OT): The Pakistan High Commission, London organized a “Councillors Convention-2018” in London on 24 February 2018. This was the 3rd Councillors Convention since 2015. About 200 British Pakistani Councillors, Lord Mayors and Mayors from across the UK attended the Convention. Lord Nazir Ahmed, Paul Scully, Conservative MP, Ruth Cadbury, Labour MP, Councillor Hanzala Malik, former Member of Scottish Parliament, community leaders, professionals, academicians, students and media persons were among the attendees, says a press release received from London here today. The purpose of the Convention was to carry forward the dialogue initiated in the previous Councillors Conventions and reach out to the community through the elected leadership of the British Pakistanis.
The event also aimed to provide a platform to the elected representatives of the British Pakistanis to get together and share ideas on common causes related to the Pakistani community in the UK. Another purpose of the Convention was to celebrate the achievements of the British Pakistanis in various walks of life in the UK as well as identify the inadequacies and areas where more efforts were needed to be made.
H.E. Syed Ibne Abbas, Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK, who presided over the Convention, thanked the guests for their overwhelming participation in the Convention, which he termed a part of the High Commission’s efforts to connect with the community and forge better understanding on issues of common interest. The High Commissioner stated in his inaugural remarks that Councillors/Mayors make the first tier of Westminster Democracy and many of them would make their way to the British Parliament; hence, engagement with them is of vital importance. He said we have gathered to celebrate the success and contribution that our diaspora has made to the progress and development of the UK as well as Pakistan.
However, he said, over 1.2 million strong Pakistani diaspora can still achieve much more through focus on education and enhanced political and socio-economic participation in the UK. Giving an overview of Pakistan, the High Commissioner said Pakistan economy is doing well. According to the World Bank, our GDP growth is 5.5%; PwC forecast says Pakistan would be 20th largest economy in 2030; CPEC is a game changer which will make Pakistan regional economic hub, added the High Commissioner. Speaking about Pakistan-UK bilateral relations, the High Commissioner said the two countries have excellent relations in various areas of common interest.
However, he expressed disappointment over UK’s sponsoring the move to put Pakistan on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Grey List; a move he termed was in total disregard to the sacrifices made by Pakistan in fight against terrorism. He called upon the Councillors/Mayors and members of the Community to lobby with their MPs to put across Pakistan’s viewpoint on important national, regional and international issues to rectify the wrong perception of the country created by media and hostile external forces. The High Commissioner termed the situation on Line of Control (LOC) and Working Boundary, grim. Quoting the figures, he said in 2017, as many as 1970 ceasefire violation were made by Indian security forces, whereas in just less than two months into this year, 390 violations have been made causing loss of innocent Kashmiri people.
He said Pakistan is observing utmost restraint but there is a limit to this. The High Commissioner particularly mentioned that the latest FCO report on human rights does not mention human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). This kind of neglect of the human rights violations cannot be expected from the UK, which is a standard bearer of human rights. The High Commissioner thanked the community for their unified response and support to the High Commission on anti-Pakistan campaign run on London Taxis in November 2017, which the High Commission had immediately got stopped. He said we need to remain more vigilant about such mischievous acts in future.
In view of the huge participation by the Councillors and positive response about the initiative, the High Commissioner announced that next Councillors Convention would be held in Manchester. Moreover, in order to introduce British Pakistani youth to Pakistan, the High Commissioner announced that from this year onward, a fully funded Pakistan trip for six (06) British Pakistani young people would be organized. The day-long Convention was divided into an inaugural session followed by two main sessions featuring panellists from MPs, Councillors, Mayors and experts from various fields. Lord Nazir Ahmed, Paul Scully MP, Hanzal Malik, former MSP addressed the inaugural session and made observations and recommendations relevant to the community and Pakistan-UK relations.
During the two main sessions, discussions took place along the following themes relevant to the Pakistani community, namely: ‘Diaspora’s role in furthering Pakistan-UK Socio-Economic and Political Relationship’ and ‘Youth Engagement and Women Empowerment’. While appreciating the contribution of the British Pakistanis in the social and economic life of the Britain, panellists emphasized on the enhanced focus on education for children, higher education for youth, active role of women in various walks of life, and respect for plurality and diversity while retaining one’s own culture, identity and heritage. It was noted that there are great opportunities on offer for the Pakistani community, which must be benefitted from to better integrate into the mainstream British society.
The panellists presented a very positive outlook of the economic potential of Pakistan in the aftermath of CPEC. Keith Allen Bennett, a CPEC expert highlighted the enormous economic and development opportunities as a result of CPEC. Similarly, Julian Hamilton, Chairman PBBC briefed the audience in detail about business and trade opportunities in Pakistan. Mr Hamilton also criticized the move to put Pakistan on FATF Grey List, and termed it politically motivated. Sardar Masood Khan, President AJ and K attended the Convention as a special guest and apprised the attendees about the dire human rights violations in Kashmir.
He stated that India is waging three wars: 1) It has cordoned off the entire Kashmir on its side, and is killing and blinding the Kashmiris with impunity; 2) It is waging war across LOC, and 3) It is engaged in proxies and subversions in Pakistan. He urged the international community to play its role to alleviate the sufferings of the Kashmiri people. The President also gave a detailed overview of various development projects in AJ and K.
The panellists included Ruth Cadbury MP; Mr Julian Hamilton, Chairman Pakistan Britain Business Council, Councillor Asghar Butt; Councillor Yasmin Dar; Councillor Sabia Hussain; Keith Allen Bennett, CPEC expert; Pasha Bocarie, TV Actor and tourism promoter; Councillor Shahid Younas; Councillor Dr Ayesha Raza; Saba Naseem, cricket coach BEM BCA; Dr Sarah Khan; Zahra Shah, CEO British Pakistan Foundation and Councillor Afzal Shah. Suniya Qureshi, and Aneeqa Malik moderated one session each. The event was held in a local restaurant in London.
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