Days ahead of Prime Minister Theresa May's India visit, the UK today hailed Pakistan's "significant sacrifices" in combating terror while responding to a petition calling on the British government to "strongly condemn" Pakistan for providing a safe haven for terrorists.
The petition titled 'UK Government to strongly condemn Pakistan or providing safe haven for terrorists' on the official government website had crossed the 10,000 signatures required to make it incumbent upon the UK government to respond.
"Pakistan has made significant sacrifices in opposing terrorism. The UK has regularly raised with Pakistan the need to take consistent action against all terrorist groups operating within its borders," the response from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) read.
"The UK regularly highlights to Pakistan, at the highest level, the importance of taking effective action against all terrorist groups operating in Pakistan, as Pakistan has committed to do," the response said.
"We recognise the significant sacrifices that Pakistan and its people have made in combating terrorism. We are helping Pakistan develop its capacity to protect itself and prosecute those who plan and commit terrorist attacks," it said.
The petition, authored by an Indian-origin professional Naman Paropkari, was launched with the aim of gathering as many as 100,000 signatures by the March 29, 2017, deadline so that the issue is considered for a parliamentary debate in the House of Commons.
"Pakistan continues to double speak on issue of terrorism. It has aided and abetted enemies of the international coalition (of which Britain is a leading partner with the US) against terrorism. Osama Bin Laden's hideout was in Pakistan. Pakistan continues to harbour UN sanctioned terror networks," the petition said.
The 19,429 signatures gathered so far on the UK-wide petition have come largely from London and northern regions of England with heavy Indian-origin populations.
May is scheduled to arrive in India on November 6 for a three-day visit, which will include a bilateral dialogue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The UK's lauding of Pakistan's "significant sacrifices" in combating terrorism comes a day after China staunchly defended its all-weather ally from Prime Minister Modi's terming of Pakistan as a "mothership of terrorism", saying it is against linking any country or religion with terror. China also asked the world to acknowledge Pakistan's "great sacrifices".
"We are strongly against terrorism of all forms, maintaining that terrorism should not be linked to certain country, ethnic group and religion," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying had told a media briefing in Beijing while responding to questions on Modi's criticism against Pakistan at the BRICS Summit in Goa.
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The FCO's response to it also highlighted the various ways in which the UK was helping Pakistan combat terrorism, including training on how to detect and disrupt improvised explosive devices, advice on other counter terrorism security matters, such as aviation and airport security and assistance in developing narratives to counter the extremist ideology that is the root cause of terrorism.
The various ways UK is helping Pakistan in combating terror also included guidance on reforming the justice system to ensure that Pakistan can successfully prosecute those who are responsible for attacks in line with international standards on human rights and providing senior support to help develop effective civilian counter terrorism responses through the Prime Minister's Counter Terrorism Capability Envoy, it said.
"Countering the terrorist and extremist threats in Pakistan also requires investment in the underlying issues that can contribute, such as improving the rule of law and education as well as tackling poverty. The UK is working to help address these issues including through our bilateral aid programme," the FCO said.