Education holds the key to win the battle of mindsets

Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari has said that education holds the key to win the battle of mindsets and Pakistan highly appreciates British assistance to the country particularly in the education sector. Appreciating UK DFID’s new Operational Plan 2011-2015, the President especially thanked the British Government for earmarking its major chunk of assistance during this Plan, around £650 million, for the education sector.

During his meeting with UK Secretary of State for International Development Mr. Andrew Mitchell here at Aiwan-e-Sadr today the President said Pakistan counts on UK’s continued support in its sustainable development and further deepening of the bilateral relationship within the framework of Pak-UK Enhanced Strategic Dialogue (ESD).

He said that Pakistan was keenly looking forward to the first annual review of the ESD in May 2012 as the Dialogue was a significant step towards further strengthening of the mutual equation and helping the two countries creating a better mutual understanding and clarity on issues of global, regional peace and security. He reiterated Pakistan’s desire to have a multifaceted and deep engagement with the UK on various issues, based on sovereign equality, mutual trust and respect and mutual interest.

The President also appreciated UK’s official Development Assistance to Pakistan and expressed the hope that development assistance will continue post 2013.

Discussing DFID’s new Operational Plan 2011-2015 that envisages assistance of almost £ 1.4 billion over four years thus making Pakistan the largest recipient of UK’s development assistance, the President said that the earmarking bulk of the funds to strengthen education sector, especially the primary education, was the most welcome step. He expressed the hope that the initiative would yield far-reaching results.

New Operational Plan 2011-2015 with almost £ 1.4 billion assistance over four years focuses on education, reproductive/maternity health, governance and security and poverty alleviation besides Humanitarian assistance.

Department for International Development has earmarked £203.5 million in the long term support to the education sector in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with KPK Government as the implementing agency.

The President also highlighted various initiatives to provide relief to the people through Government’s flagship program, the BISP. He said that Pakistan would greatly appreciate DFID support to Benazir Income Support Program which not only provides sustenance to the poor but was also addressing many issues of the poor by opening up vistas of opportunities for them.

He said that despite bearing the heaviest toll of war on terror and facing unprecedented natural calamities of 2010 and 2011, the resilient people of Pakistan were determined to face all challenges head on in their way towards their progress and putting their economy back on track.

He said that Pakistanis were the worst sufferers of the war against militant mindset and have paid the heaviest price of the war. He said that we greatly appreciate British Government and people’s support to our people and the country in our fight to make this region peaceful and stable.

The President said that we are especially thankful to the British Government for supporting Pakistan at the European Commission. He said that we have had positive news on the EU’s success in getting Autonomous Trade Preferences through Pakistan at the WTO. He expressed the hope that Pakistan would continue to get British support for the GSP+ and Five-Year Engagement Plan with the EU should help Pakistan towards acquiring GSP+.

Discussing regional situation, the President while reiterating Pakistan’s principled stance of supporting Afghan-owned and Afghan-led inclusive process of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan said that the recent Trilateral Summit at Islamabad on 16-17 February 2012 was reflective of our resolve to cooperate on issues of common interest such as fight against terrorism, narcotics and organized crimes and work together for socio-economic uplift of the region.

He said that inter regional connectivity and creation of economic opportunities in this region would lead to peace, development and stability of the region.

UK Secretary of State for International Development Mr. Andrew Mitchell thanked the President for meeting and assured that the British Government would continue to extend all possible support in improving educational facilities in Pakistan besides poverty eradication and employment generation. He also assured continued support of the British government to Pakistan’s efforts in fight against militancy and overcoming critical challenges facing the country’s economy.

Those who were present during today’s meeting included Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Finance Minister, Interior Minister Mr. A. Rehman Malik, Mr. M. Salman Faruqui, Secretary General, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and other senior officials.

Form UK’s side, Mr. Andrew Mitchell was accompanied by Sir Michael Barber, Special Representative for Education in Pakistan, UK High Commissioner Mr. Adam Thomson, DG DFID Mr. Mark Brown and other officials.

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