Pakistan government has failed to deliver: UK envoy



Islamabad: In an unusual blunt remark, British envoy Adam Thomson has said Pakistan needs "radical change" as the government has failed to deliver, but cautioned against any "unconstitutional" move against the democratic set-up, including a prolonged caretaker administration.

The High Commissioner told a group of Pakistani journalists: "Pakistan needs radical change. Pakistan's economy is not growing fast enough, Pakistan's governments ‘federal and provincial’ are not delivering enough to the people".

He stressed the need for an impartial caretaker government and an effective Election Commission to ensure the credibility of elections expected to be held by May after the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government completes its five-year term.

Thomson told the journalists during an interaction yesterday that change should be democratic and come through Constitutional means, "not by storming parliament or prolonging a caretaker government beyond the constitutional provisions. It needs to be through the ballot box".

He referred to the four-day sit-in protest led by cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri outside parliament and said demonstration was an "authentic expression" of discontentment among millions of ordinary Pakistanis.

The public were concerned about lack of services and also whether political leaders were accountable. "Whether they are delivering for ordinary Pakistanis, and whether they are themselves meeting the high standards set for them in Pakistan's Constitution."

Qadri led the protest to push for electoral reforms, reconstitution of the Election Commission and dismissal of federal and provincial governments. He ended the sit-in after signing an agreement with the government. However, Thomson said talk of unconstitutional means during the sit-in worried the British government.

"The demonstration in Islamabad had heard some very fiery rhetoric, which at least to us sounded as though it was calling for action that went well beyond the Constitution," he said.

Thomson listed the ailing economy, power outages and raging violent extremism among the failures of the federal and provincial government.

The Dawn newspaper reported that Thomson's "candid comments were quite unusual for a diplomat, particularly one from Britain, whose officials have been traditionally very cautious while commenting on political developments in the country even though some of them had in the past remained closely involved with a few political deals" in Pakistan.

Thomson said he felt concerned as he was the envoy of a country that is 'a friendly observer and supporter" of Pakistan.

He contended that many Pakistani politicians shared his appraisal. "The point we are trying to make is that democracy is not just about elections. It is about living up to the standards you set...It is about earning the trust of the people and delivering for the people," he said.

PTI