Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Pakistan EU Trade Agreement

Delivered in Plenary - April 21st 2004

Mr President

In the past I have been a long-standing critic of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in terms of its human rights violations, in particular the ongoing persecution of Christian and Ahmadi Muslim minorities; its ambivalent and lukewarm cooperation in the fight against Islamist terrorism, which has led to the destabilisation of Afghanistan by aiding Taliban forces to regroup; ongoing Jihad infiltration across the line of control into Indian Kashmir; and - as Mr Ford said - most importantly of all, the Pakistani export of nuclear technology to rogue states such as North Korea and former terrorist-supporting Iran and Libya, which threaten global security.

Nevertheless I support the trade agreement, as I have to recognise that Pakistan has recently made some encouraging moves in human rights, including women's rights, which deserve recognition and reward. Also, as a friend of India, historically Pakistan's giant neighbour and foe, I take great heart at the peaceful rapprochement as evidenced by several confidence-building measures, most visibly and recently the successful cricket tour.

Only three years ago the two states teetered on the verge of nuclear war. India is today in the midst of general elections as a beacon for democracy and prosperity. Its growth rate is now higher than China's and it does not want to see Pakistan suffer economically.

The recent campaign in Waziristan shows Islamabad's intent to prosecute a war against al-Qa'ida strongholds in tribal areas, historically no-go areas for the government of President Musharraf, who has now pressured tribal leaders to hunt down Islamist militants.

Maybe human rights clauses should not be in trade agreements, as this muddies the waters, but should instead be conditional on aid received. Otherwise, does the EU stop trading with Russia, China, Uzbekistan or Iran, to name a few examples of countries with human rights problems? Clearly that is a matter for another debate, but for the meantime we must support this accord.