Pakistan and United Kingdom on Monday launched a new UK-Pakistan Partnership on Justice and Accountability to check money laundering and bring back the stolen assets, besides agreeing to reactivate bilateral Prisoners Transfer Agreement.
This was announced during a joint news conference by visiting British Home Secretary Sajid Javid flanked by Law Minister Farogh Nasim and Prime Minister's Special Assistant on Accountability Shehzad Akbar after his talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and other senior leadership of the government.
The British Home Secretary said the UK wants to work with Pakistan to help it come out of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list. "I heard the direct impact of money laundering has been on Pakistan. It reduces tax, takes money from basic services and is a barrier to investment. With the Prime Minister, I have agreed that tackling corruption is a priority for both of our governments. That's why today I am launching a new UK-Pakistan Partnership on Justice and Accountability," the British Home Secretary announced, adding that the objective is that no one escapes justice or acts with impunity.
He also announced the appointment of a new British envoy on Justice and Accountability who will help cooperate between the two countries on the subject. He said that he also agreed with Prime Minister Khan that the Premier would work closely with his own adviser on accountability.
To a question whether extradition of former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and the sons of former Premier Nawaz Sharif also came under discussion, he said that they did not discuss individual cases. "This [UK-Pakistan Partnership on Justice and Accountability] is a new agreement and it will lead to much deeper cooperation on justice and accountability," he added.
He went on saying, "Whether we have or haven't received any individual extradition cases, it is an independent process. It is important that we work even more closely with government of Pakistan on one of its key priorities and the new Prime Minister made that clear, and we shared that, and that is for justice. I think the partnership that we announced today will make a big difference," he added.
He said, "As part of our justice cooperation, the two sides have agreed to re-start Bilateral Prisoners Transfer Agreement which would help prisoners from both countries serve their sentences closer to their families."
"The Prime Minister and I had a very constructive discussion on how we can work together even more closely. We discussed the strong links between our two countries," he said.
"I'm proud that I'm one from 12 British MPs of Pakistani heritage sitting in the British parliament and I am proud of the enormous contribution British Pakistanis make for the success of the UK," he said.
"But our interconnections also pose risks for both of our countries - the flow of illegal money, people, crime and terrorism - so it is vital we do all we can to encourage a strong bond between our two countries," he said, adding: "We are cracking down on those who wished to abuse our laws."
He said that he discussed with the Prime Minister the strong cooperation against the shared threats from terrorism and extremism, adding that Pakistan has suffered more than most from terrorism. "Terrorism is a threat that we all face. Therefore, we need more concerted efforts and work together," he added.
"But my visit is not only about justice and security issues. As the first British minister to visit here since the election, I am here to strengthen our relationship across the board. The depth of this relationship is best illustrated through our investment in education which is central to the UK's work in Pakistan," he added.
Since 2011, he said that the UK has helped over 9.5 million children into primary schools, including 4.6 million girls, and over 5 million into secondary schools.
While the UK prepared to leave the EU, he said, historical partners like Pakistan are of renewed significance. With a growing population of over 200 million people, Pakistan has the potential to emerge as an increasing stronger trading partner for the UK, he added.
He said that the UK is Pakistan's largest export market in the EU and second largest globally, adding that there is already over 120 British companies that operate in Pakistan.
"On leaving the EU, we are aiming to maintain, indeed, to increase the level of access for Pakistan to the UK markets. We want to see more UK-based companies to invest in Pakistan," he said, adding that more companies need to consider Pakistan for exploring excellent opportunities to create jobs and prosperity for both the countries.
Asked whether the British government will support Pakistan in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the British Home Secretary said both the countries take money laundering very seriously and the work of FATF is very important. "We want to work with Pakistan to help it come out of the grey list and it is not just because of the FATF, but I think the government of Pakistan wants these changes anyway and we will work and cooperate together," he added.
"I'm here in Pakistan to reaffirm this important relationship and establish new areas of cooperation. This morning I met with the foreign minister and interior minister to discus our work together on security, justice and regional stability," he said.
He stated: "We firmly believe that Pakistan is UK's most committed and enduring partner. We provide more development assistance than anyone else. We are Pakistan's biggest export market in Europe and major source of Pakistan's foreign direct investment."
He also congratulated Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government on taking office, adding that the UK is firmly committed to working closely with the Prime Minister to build the strong foundation.
Further elaborating the declaration on the UK-Pakistan Partnership on Justice and Accountability, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Barrister Shehzad Akbar said that it will have single-point contact person on both sides to expedite the operational working on various cases of extradition, money laundering and other serious organized crimes.
He said, "Work has already been started with National Crime Agency of UK and we are also discussing to have a joint fund on civil recovery of stolen assets. We appreciated the help and offer of the British government to set up this fund in which Pakistan will also contribute...and we go for the civil recovery of the stolen asset as it is the initiative of this government."
He said that there are also discussions on appointment of Crown Prosecution Service with appointment of liaison at the British High Commission for helping and working with Pakistan law enforcement agencies for filing all the requests in terms of mutual legal assistance and extradition requests.
He said that a new program is also under discussion for capacity building of Pakistan's law enforcement and various institutions with experts from the UK. He said that British government has also extended support to the Prime Minister's initiative of legislative reforms, adding that a few tasks force have been formed for reforms in the civil and criminal justice system.
On the prisoners' agreement, he said that it has to go through the cabinet being a procedural requirement. "But we have today to follow that up in coming days that will also be restarted," he said, adding that the agreement was already there but it was suspended for few years and now it is being restarted.
To a question regarding possible extradition of Ishaq Dar and the sons of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Minister for Law Barrister Farogh Naseem denied that the matter was discussed during the talks with the visiting British Home Secretary. "We haven't discussed individual cases, but discussed, in terms of prescribe a legal regime, under the auspices of which, we could work," he added.
To another question whether a list of wanted persons was handed over to the British home secretary, the law minister declined to comment on that, saying: "I am unable to share the details at this stage."
Yet again to a question about extradition of Dar and Nawaz Shairf's sons, the minister said: "As we have not discussed any details, so I would not wish to answer this question that is something on which we can come to the media and discuss it later."
To this question, Barrister Shehzad Akbar said that the matter is before the accountability court and international perpetual warrants have been issued from the court and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is the main agency dealing with the matter. "If they [court and NAB] file a request, the government will support, but at the moment it is in their domain and we have not discussed individual cases."
Further elaborating on the declaration on UK-Pakistan Partnership on Justice and Accountability, Farogh Naseem said that it has a general implication and will not cover individual cases. However, he stated if it is applicable then it would be across the board.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi received the British Home Secretary Sajid Javid at the Foreign Office and discussed various areas of regional and bilateral cooperation, in particular regional security, counter terrorism, organized crime, migration, human trafficking, money-laundering and assets recovery.
According to a Foreign Office statement, Qureshi stressed the need for expanding Pakistan-UK cooperation and translate the existing ties into a tangible and multifaceted strategic partnership. He appreciated DFID's contribution towards the development of socioeconomic sectors in Pakistan.
The British home secretary conveyed his government's desire to support and work closely with the new government in all areas of mutual interest. The two countries closely cooperate under the institutional framework of the Enhanced Strategic Dialogue, it added.