Aim is to help Pakistan to prosperity
EAST Ham MP Stephen Timms, this week discusses events in Pakistan, in his exclusive Recorder column. He writes: OUR community in Newham has particularly close connections with Pakistan. Developments there reverberate here. But events in Pakistan are al
EAST Ham MP Stephen Timms, this week discusses events in Pakistan, in his exclusive Recorder column.
OUR community in Newham has particularly close connections with Pakistan. Developments there reverberate here.
But events in Pakistan are also being closely observed by many Governments around the world.
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I was shocked to hear of the suicide attack at the Pearl Continental hotel in Peshawar last month.
At least 18 people were killed. There has been a series of attacks in Pakistan since the army launched its offensive against the Taliban in the SWAT area. Two million people have been forced to leave their homes. Barack Obama said recently: "Al-Qaeda and its extremist allies are a cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within."
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The background to the Peshawar attack was the agreement of the Pakistan Government to implement Sharia law in the six districts of Malakand, North West Frontier Province, in exchange for an end to Taliban insurgency in the area.
However, rather than ending their insurgency after the agreement, the Taliban stepped it up. They moved into the Buner area - just 100 miles from the capital, Islamabad - and occupied government buildings and the homes of local leaders opposed to them.
The Pakistan army responded with a crackdown in the area.
Among two million people displaced, over 200,000 people are living in emergency camps.
Mobile communications, landlines and television are not working.
The United Nations is delivering emergency humanitarian aid. The UK Government has increased its aid pledge to �22 Million, providing food, water and emergency shelter.
The International Development Secretary, Douglas Alexander said: "The UK is deeply concerned for the wellbeing of over two million people displaced by this conflict. Our support will help deliver a coordinated and effective international response to this crisis to allow those affected by the fighting to take the first steps towards rebuilding their lives."
The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was in Pakistan before Christmas, and again in April. After meeting President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, he said: "We agreed on an enhanced strategic dialogue to bring together our senior diplomatic, military and intelligence teams on a more regular basis...as Pakistan steps up the fight on terrorism so we will focus greater attention on the basic human challenges Pakistan still faces - in education, health and respect for human rights - in each of which failure serves only to fuel radicalisation."
The UK Government has pledged to support Pakistan's fight against extremism by providing �665 million worth of assistance over the next four years, with �125 million specifically for education in the border areas of Pakistan. Amongst all Britain's aid programmes in developing countries around the world, this will be the second largest.
The aim is to help Pakistan become a peaceful, prosperous country, where young people are educated and are able to find work. This will benefit Pakistanis and help eradicate the terrorism which has caused so much suffering. It will be welcomed by many in Newham with roots in Pakistan. And it will contribute to wider stability for the rest of the world.