London: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's visit to Britain was today overshadowed by the release of a report by UK lawmakers which called for a cut in aid to the country unless there is proof that the funds help in stopping Islamic extremism.
Sharif, who arrived here yesterday, was assured of UK's support by Department for International Development (DfID) Secretary Justine Greening just hours before the House of Commons' International Development Select Committee report called for a review of the 400 million pounds annual aid budget for Pakistan.
“It is unlikely that expenditure would be so high if the country were not having to confront Islamic extremism,” the cross-party committee of British MPs found as part of their analysis.
“If this is the case, the budget can only be justified if there is clear evidence that DfID support is effective in reducing the extremist threat. If not, we recommend that DfID consider reducing spending in Pakistan and increasing it in low income countries,” the report concluded. Pakistan is set to receive 1.17 billion pounds in support from the UK between 2011 and 2015, making it one of the largest recipients of bilateral aid.
Annual spending will increase from 215 million pounds in 2010-2011 to 405 million pounds in 2014-15. The government has said that helping Pakistan was in the UK's national interest.
In response to the report, DfID said investment in overseas development, including in Pakistan, “created a safer and more prosperous world for the UK.”
“Tackling poverty in the world's poorest places can mean tackling the root causes of global problems such as terrorism, which matter to us here in Britain. Education is vital to transforming Pakistan's future and is where a significant proportion of our funds are directed. This is firmly in the UK's own national interest,” the DfID said.
Sharif is on a five-day visit to the UK at the invitation of British Prime Minister David Cameron for talks over bilateral issues.
The Pakistan Prime Minister is scheduled to address an investment conference during his visit and hold meetings with select UK-based investors.