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British envoy terms Pakistan ideal for investment

The newly-appointed British high commissioner in Pakistan, Jane Marriott, has observed that Pakistan is a great place to invest due to its strategic location and growing middle class.

Talking to Dawn, Ms Marriott, who is the first female British envoy to Pakistan, said trade between the two countries had nearly doubled over the last three years.

“Under our new developing countries trading scheme, 94pc of Pakistan’s exports to the United Kingdom did not have any tariff, and we’re looking at the tariffs for others. Overall our trade is in a good place, but we are keen to do more,” she said.

Asked how the UK was transitioning its partnership with Pakistan from a traditional aid relation to a mutually beneficial one, she said: “One of the things I’m really keen to do, and we’ve already started, is to move away from thinking about development in aid terms. Instead we need to think about development as a partnership, beyond aid, focusing more on trade. This also includes technical assistance and resilience work.”

“I’m also passionate and interested in our climate work – we’re helping 1.75 million people here prepare for the effects of climate change,” she added.

The high commissioner said they were working on a variety of things, ranging from green power and green energy.

“Sadly climate change is happening, whether we want it or not. We need to do two things – stop it from happening fast and increase our resilience and adaptation to prepare for more severe climate events,” she said.

Ms Marriott said one of the programmes they ran after the floods was to give cash to 41,000 families, which helped nearly 300,000 people to do the basics such as feed themselves.

She said she was keen to hear from those working to protect the environment, especially as COP 28 approached.

Commenting on Pakistan’s role in war on terror, the British envoy said this was a geographically challenging area.

“The dreadful attack in Bajaur over the weekend was a stark reminder of the horrendous impact that terrorism plays, and my thoughts and prayers are with those who lost loved ones. The UK will continue to work with Pakistan to eradicate terrorism. Pakistan’s security is our security,” the high commissioner said.

On the future of Afghanistan, she said there was a danger that the world’s attention had slipped away from Afghanistan, and that it did not get the attention it deserved.

“There’s a deep humanitarian crisis there, and in the long run we’ll need to find a way of working there to help the Afghan people,” she added.

Asked as to what were her first impressions about Pakistan and its people, and her immediate priorities, Jane Marriott said she was absolutely delighted to be here, and that Pakistan was a country that she had visited twice before and always wanted to come back as high commissioner.

“So I feel I’ve reached one of my career highlights and dreams,” she added.

The British envoy said she came to Pakistan in 2007 when she was based in London, and back in 2018 while accompanying the then UK home secretary, Sajid Javid.

She said before she came here, she spoke to all of her predecessors, and every single one of them said this was the best posting they had ever had.

“I am already starting to see why. One of the things that has really struck me about coming to Pakistan is how familiar it feels, and I think many Pakistanis going to the United Kingdom get the same feeling as well because we have shared values, shared history, and we understand each other in a way that is not just superficial, she said, adding that, “I was talking to another ambassador earlier today and he said to me I did not really understand Pakistan, Jane, but you will because you both have similar parliamentary systems.”

She said she was very focused on the diaspora links – the 1.6 million people of Pakistani heritage in the UK. “This includes some of my good friends. But also at any given moment we have around 100,000 British people in Pakistan mainly coming to see friends and family, but I’d really like to see the number of people coming for tourism here increase. From what little I’ve seen of your country already, it is amazing! On previous visits I’ve been to Peshawar and Lahore, and earlier this week I was hiking on the Margalla Hills, and there is so much beauty here. I can’t wait to get to Gilgit and Hunza. And of course, I will be trying some of the world renowned Pakistani cuisine,” the British high commissioner said.