Pakistan

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 20th January 2010.

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Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Shadow Minister (Justice) 11:30 am, 20th January 2010

What his most recent assessment is of the humanitarian situation in Pakistan; and if he will make a statement.

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Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

Of the 2.7 million people displaced in Pakistan in 2009, the UN estimates that as of 10 January 1.6 million people have returned to their places of origin and 1.1 million internally displaced people are still receiving humanitarian assistance, including 293,000 people from South Waziristan and 370,000 people from Malakand Division.

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Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Shadow Minister (Justice)

Speaking as someone who has taken a consistent interest in Pakistan for 30 years, I think that its interests are best served at all levels by free trade and democracy. To that end, what discussions have the Minister or his colleagues had at an EU level about extending the generalised system of preferences plus-GSP plus-trading system to Pakistan?

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Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

We are and will be continuing our discussions with the EU on the GSP plus system, which I know was also a feature of discussions with Mr. Mitchell when he visited Pakistan earlier this month.

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Photo of Dari Taylor Dari Taylor Labour, Stockton South

My hon. Friend will know that the people living in the North West Frontier region of Pakistan in Balochistan and Waziristan are tyrannised by the Taliban. They are controlled and threatened, and they feel powerless. What is the Department doing to ensure that these people are liberated?

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Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

One of the best ways to deal with extremism in the region is to ensure that we have sound development work on the ground, that there is good education for the people of Pakistan and, indeed, that we support the democratically elected Government of Pakistan in their aims.

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Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

As the Minister will be aware, the UN's humanitarian response plan for Pakistan sets out the need for more than $500 million in assistance to those internally displaced in 2010. However, when I visited Pakistan two weeks ago, I was told by the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs that it had been unable to launch this vital appeal. What discussions has the Minister had with the Pakistani Government to ensure that the UN can start raising funds for 2010 to ensure that help can reach the hundreds of thousands of people who need it?

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Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

The hon. Gentleman is right to point out the importance of the Pakistan humanitarian response plan. The 2009 appeal was 71 per cent. funded, making it the fourth best funded plan in that year. The United Kingdom is the second largest bilateral donor to Pakistan, and we are working with the Government of Pakistan to make sure that they launch their 2010 appeal for $537 million.

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Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Chair, Members' Allowances Committee

Since the Pakistani army commenced its operations against the Taliban, tens of thousands of people have fled the conflict zone, but many are now returning. What is being done to ensure that the aid we are giving to these people does not fall into the hands of the Taliban?

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Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

We work through the United Nations-supported humanitarian response plan and reputable non-governmental organisations, as well as local groups to which we can commit funds knowing that they will get through to the right people on the ground. All that funding is independently audited on a quarterly basis, and the information is made public.

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