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The Jang: UK minister says dual nationals must vote but not enter parliament

By Murtaza Ali Shah and Asif Dar

LONDON: A senior UK minister has said that dual national Pakistanis must be allowed to vote in Pakistani elections on 11th May but the Supreme Court of Pakistan has done the right thing by barring dual nationals from standing for public offices in Pakistan.

Speaking to Pakistani audience at the Jang Forum in London, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the Foreign Office and Faith & Communities Minister, said the UK government supported the efforts of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). “In a short span of time, the ECP has done a good job.”

She said that fact that Pakistan’s last government was able to fulfil five years in office showed that democratic process in Pakistan was maturing and was moving towards stability. She said the UK believed that Pakistan Army had not interfered in Pakistan’s democratic process and was keen to see democracy taking roots.

She told audience that Britain will soon become the largest aid provider to Pakistan and will do so for the right reasons. “But the money we are giving to Pakistan belongs to poor people in this country, the taxpayers. It’s our right to ask Pakistan why the rich class doesn’t pay taxes, why is there no effective system in place to collect taxes.”

Answering a question about incident of sectarian terrorism in Pakistan, Warsi said that it was not right to hide behind politically correct positions. “The violence in Pakistan is not sectarian. It’s aimed at Shia Muslims and let’s be clear about that.” When asked if Britain sometime was diplomatic about violence in Pakistan, Warsi, who has responsibility for Pakistan, stated that Britain was upfront about it and was helping Pakistan to curtail the level of violence that has been going on. She said that Labour government failed top recognise Islamophobic attacks on Muslims but the current coalition government was doing its best to ensure that Muslims are not targeted because of their faith and appearance. She, however, revealed that over 60 percent religious motivated attacks in UK are against Muslims and it’s very worrying. She said the government was supporting a project which was measuring anti-Muslim hatred incidents and planned to outlaw faith related hate crimes against Muslims.

She said that Lady Margaret Thatcher had provided inspiration to many Pakistani women who took pride that Britain was ruled by a woman who believed in hard work and enterprise. She said the former prime minister inspired her to join politics and demand equality.

Warsi said more than 1.3 million Pakistanis in Britain faced several issues in Pakistan and would like permanent steps taken by Pakistani leadership for the resolution of these issues. She commended Punjab government’s efforts under Shahbaz Sharif who had set up the Chief Minster’s Punjab Task Force for Overseas Pakistanis, headed by Zubair Gull. “I will take up this issue with the next government. I am a witness to the fact that Punjab govt’s Overseas Office has helped British Pakistanis. This office must be made permanent but non-partisan. More than 1.3m British Pakistanis provide free public relations service to Pakistan.” Warsi said there existed a huge gulf between Pakistani and British politicians. “Unlike politicians in Pakistan, we enter into politics to take issues forward, not plunder and mint money, politics for us is about stress, serving community. It’s a demanding job and politics for us is about accountability.”

She said Pakistani communities must take notice of where their youth was headed to. She said some Pakistani boys in Bradford and Birmingham drove expensive cars but they don’t have jobs. We must ask where’s the money coming for them to support their lifestyle?”

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