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Pakistan and Kenya

Volume 470: debated on Monday 7 January 2008

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement about recent developments in Pakistan and Kenya. I am grateful to you for allowing me to combine the two statements. Both countries are important to Britain, and rightly important to many hon. Members. I know that the Foreign Affairs Committee visited Pakistan in November 2006, and that it was a key focus of the Committee’s report on foreign policy aspects of the war on terror in July 2006 and its subsequent report on South Asia in May 2007. I think I am right in saying that several hon. Members are now returning from Pakistan, having gone there to observe the elections that were planned for next week, and will now try to rearrange their visit.

The situations in Pakistan and Kenya are very different, and I shall deal with them separately, but important elements are common to the recent crises that have afflicted both those regional powers. Both countries have experienced strong economic growth in recent years and the middle class is growing, but poverty is widespread and rising inequality is causing frustration and disillusionment. Both countries face violence and terrorism, and both are undergoing political transition. They are working to embed democratic systems and structures, but struggling to overcome the tribal or dynastic allegiances which have fed personality politics.

In these circumstances, there is a temptation to turn away. However, there are 800,000 British people of Pakistani origin; there are an estimated 13,000 British citizens resident in Kenya, and over a quarter of a million British tourists visit each year. The United Kingdom is Kenya's largest foreign investor, and our bilateral trade with Pakistan is worth some £1 billion; and, of course, both Pakistan and Kenya are key partners in the fight against al-Qaeda. That is why the Government are committed to using all their assets to help those countries on the path to peaceful and prosperous development.

I will begin with Pakistan. I am sure the whole House will want to join me in reiterating our condolences to the family of Mrs. Bhutto at this terrible time and to the other bereaved Pakistani families who are grieving for loved ones who were killed or who suffered injuries in the senseless attack of 27 December. There is cross-party condemnation in this House of terrorism and a determination to stand with the people of Pakistan against the power of the bomb and the bullet, and I welcome that.

Whatever the disputes about her periods in office, Benazir Bhutto showed in her words and actions a deep commitment to her country. She knew the risks of her return to campaign for election but was convinced that her country needed her. The target of her assassins are all those committed to democracy in Pakistan and it is vital that they do not succeed. The courage shown by Mrs. Bhutto is now required of others as they take forward the drive for democracy and modernisation.

The Government's aims and role are fourfold. The first priority is to ensure that the circumstances of Mrs. Bhutto's death are properly established. A five-member UK police team arrived in Pakistan at the end of last week and has begun work in support of Pakistani colleagues.

The second priority is to promote free and fair elections. The delay in the elections as a result of the assassination is regrettable but the period between now and 18 February needs to be used to build confidence in the democratic process. When I spoke to the House on 7 November, I made clear my conviction that democracy and the rule of law were allies of stability and development in Pakistan. Since then, President Musharraf has retired from the military. He has lifted the state of emergency. Almost all political prisoners have been released and most media restrictions have been rescinded. But more needs to be done, and we have continued to stress the Pakistani Government's responsibility to create a level playing field under which credible and transparent elections can take place. This means that all remaining political detainees need to be released and the remaining restrictions on the media must be lifted.

In my last telephone call with Mrs. Bhutto on 9 December, I pledged that the UK would work on the details of the election process. In recent days, the Prime Minister has discussed the elections on three separate occasions with President Musharraf. I have also spoken to interim Pakistani Foreign Minister ul-Haque. We continue to call on the Government of Pakistan to improve the prospects for credible elections, particularly by increasing transparency, both now and on election day itself. This includes setting out clearly and early where all of the approximately 54,000 polling stations will be, posting the results for each station publicly immediately after the count and ensuring that the media's ability to report is untrammelled.

I am glad that the EU is now working to put together a full-scale election observation mission. I understand that the American International Republican Institute mission may also be reinstated. I believe that the Commonwealth can make an important, positive contribution and I hope that Pakistan will decide to invite an observer mission.

Our third priority is further to improve counter-terrorism co-operation. The deadly attack on Benazir Bhutto shows terrorism to be a threat to Pakistan, not just to the west. Over the last year, hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in shootings and suicide bomb attacks in that country. We have reiterated the UK Government's commitment to build on the already significant counter-terrorism support that we provide to Pakistan. A team of cross-Government UK experts will travel to Pakistan next week for further consultations. This will be a precursor to a further British visit to deepen our counter-terrorism relationship.

Fourthly, we are determined to ensure that British citizens of Pakistani heritage and Pakistanis resident in the United Kingdom are informed about developments and engaged in the drive to build a decent society in Pakistan. I met some of their community leaders earlier today. Although the next five weeks are important, so are the next five years and beyond, and economic, social and political development in Pakistan need to proceed hand in hand, with international support.

Kenya provided the second crisis of the new year break. When President Kibaki won the presidency in 2002, it was hailed as the most free and fair election Kenya had seen. Daniel Arap Moi's party accepted the result and ceded power. Tribal and ethnic divisions were overcome as the population rallied behind the new Government. It was a moment of great optimism. It is a marked contrast with the situation that has unfolded since the election on 27 December. I know I speak for the entire House in condemning the appalling post-election violence in Kenya, particularly the brutal killing of Kikuyu women and children in the church near Eldoret on 1 January.

Let me deal with the three issues that have preoccupied the Government and indeed the whole international community over the last week: violence and the resulting humanitarian crisis; the elections; and mediation. I have arranged for the nine statements put out by myself, the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for International Development over the last week to be deposited in a single file in the Library. I have spoken to our high commissioner in the last hour and I can confirm that his view is that of the media reports: that the urban violence of the middle of last week has subsided. That is obviously welcome, but the reporting from rural areas suggests that there are up to 250,000 refugees, and there is the potential for violence to erupt again. That is why since 2 January our travel advice, along with other countries’, has advised against non-essential travel to Kenya. That advice will remain in place until the security and political situation is clarified. We are advising Britons in Kenya to exercise extreme caution, to remain indoors in the affected areas, and to seek local advice, from the tour operators or local authorities, if they need to travel.

The humanitarian crisis we have seen unfolding on our television screens is due entirely to the post-election violence. The UN, World Food Programme and Red Cross are leading the international effort. The Department for International Development is monitoring the situation closely and has had a team on the ground in western Kenya. A £1 million contribution to the Red Cross was announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development last week, and it has helped to provide shelter for those displaced and to facilitate major food shipments from Mombasa, which took place over the weekend. DFID stands ready to provide more assistance if it is needed.

In respect of the election itself, millions of Kenyans queued for hours, peacefully and with dignity, to cast their votes for parliamentary and presidential candidates after a relatively calm election campaign. It is vital not just for Kenya, but for the whole of Africa with important elections over the next 18 months, that the democratic process works and is seen to work. However, the counting of votes in the presidential election, and particularly the reporting of votes from local to regional and then national centres, has, according to reliable European Union observation, been plagued by irregularity. Those irregularities stand in the way of the formation of a stable Kenyan Government who would have the confidence of their own people and the international community.

All allegations of fraud need to be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. That requires due legal process, but there is also a need for political mediation. Individual acts of fraud are reprehensible, but there is a deeper issue. Whatever the actual result, the country was deeply split. Kenya needs the diversity of its views to be respected, but the presidential system is designed to concentrate power when Kenya’s immediate and medium-term future requires the sharing of power.

Kenya’s political leaders must be willing to make the necessary compromises to find a way forward. They are more likely to do so with external help. That is why at the heart of all our conversations—with Kenyan, African, EU, Commonwealth, US and UN partners—has been the need for a credible mediation process. I am pleased that President Kufuor of Ghana, the current chairman of the African Union, is due to arrive in Kenya soon, and he will do so with our full support. He needs Kenyan leaders ready to engage. On 2 January Condoleezza Rice and I called for a “spirit of compromise” from those leaders. If they fail to compromise, they will forfeit the confidence, good will and support of their own people and the international community. The stakes are high for the Kenyan people, and we will remain fully engaged on the political and consular track.

May I conclude by thanking staff in the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development, in-country and in London, for their outstanding consular and political work around the clock in the very trying circumstances of the last 10 days? Their work is far from done, but both countries are better off for their engagement, and they deserve the thanks of the House.

I thank the Foreign Secretary for taking the earliest opportunity to make a statement on the situation in these two countries, as we requested last week. In both cases a flawed democratic process has given rise to tragedy, but in both cases democratically elected leaders and democratically enshrined institutions are the best hope for overcoming extremism, instability and corruption.

I echo what the Foreign Secretary said about the horror with which we have greeted the butchery of innocent people, including children, in the aftermath of the Kenyan elections. The result of that ethnic strife in the case of Kenya is a humanitarian tragedy, and providing urgent assistance to the 250,000 displaced both within Kenya and across its borders must be at the forefront of our concerns. On that subject, the Conservatives welcome DFID’s contribution of £1 million to the Kenyan Red Cross. Will the Foreign Secretary tell the House what is his latest assessment of the relief effort? How is that being evaluated? Given that the medical charity Merlin yesterday warned that Kenya faces a health crisis “within days” as “dangerously low” supplies of food and water are putting many people at risk of infection and dehydration, is it likely that international aid will need to be increased?

Is the Foreign Secretary confident that aid convoys are able to move freely and to reach those most in need, and that they themselves will not be vulnerable to attack? What representations have been made to the Government of Kenya about the need to protect and safeguard the people driven from their homes, and does he have any information about the number of refugees now in neighbouring countries such as Uganda, and the extent of their needs?

On the political crisis in Kenya, can the Foreign Secretary say more about the role that British officials and Ministers are playing? Are there any plans for any member of the Government to visit Kenya? Like him, we fully support the mission of the President of Ghana. It has been reported that the US Assistant Secretary of State has secured an offer from President Kibaki to form a coalition Government, and a concession from the Opposition leader that he will negotiate without preconditions. Can the Foreign Secretary confirm those reports? Is it not important that the EU monitoring mission issue a formal public report on the elections as soon as possible? Is the Foreign Secretary aware of any findings or recommendations from that mission, or from the Kenyan electoral assistance programme that Britain helped to fund?

Ethnic conflict is now threatening the decades of stability that have set Kenya apart from so many of its neighbours. In this situation, Kenya’s leaders have a clear responsibility to compromise and work together—whether this means joint rule or an eventual rerun of the elections under international supervision. Is it the Foreign Secretary’s view that a recount or re-tally of the election is not practical, given the likely destruction of ballot papers and records, and will he assure the House that he will not entertain the idea of sanctions at present, as some have suggested? Kenya is not a country hostile to Britain’s national interest, but a friendly country that needs our assistance.

I turn to Pakistan—a major ally, as the Foreign Secretary has said, in the war on international terror and another friend with whom we have immensely strong links and a united view that the demands that this country has made for the lifting of the remaining aspects of the state of emergency are wholly justified. The whole House will agree that the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a sickening and appalling crime and that such violence is a major threat to the stability and future of Pakistan. This was aimed not only at her, but at democracy in Pakistan itself.

The Foreign Secretary referred to the team of detectives sent to help with the investigation; can he say what their precise remit is? It is vital that when the elections are held, international monitors have full access, that the elections are free and fair, that restrictions on press and broadcasting are lifted and that the results are respected. The Foreign Secretary said in November that a decision would be made about some £3.5 million of UK funding for the elections on the basis of the conduct of the Government of Pakistan. Can he say now whether any decisions have been reached about that? Is he confident that a robust election monitoring mission will be accepted by the Government of Pakistan, and that it will have all the access that it needs to the electoral process?

The Foreign Secretary also said in November that no

“spillover of the situation in Pakistan”—[Official Report, 7 November 2007; Vol. 467, c. 134.]

into Afghanistan had been detected at that time. However, the outgoing UN special representative said last week that violence in Pakistan was affecting Afghanistan, and there are reports today of thousands of Pakistanis fleeing their tribal areas into Afghanistan. What is the Foreign Secretary’s latest assessment of that, and does it have any implications for our troops and their operations in Afghanistan?

Finally, once a way has been found through the present crises in both countries, is it not our responsibility to help guide both toward a secure democratic future? Will that not require a reduction in corruption, a free press and an independent judiciary, so that disputes can be settled through reason and law, rather than through violence and death?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the content and tone of his remarks. We wholeheartedly support his identification of the need in both Kenya and Pakistan for democratic institutions that are not just those of formal democracy, but which are supported through the judiciary, the media and political parties—never mind education, health and other systems.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about aid, and I am sure that he will recognise that, importantly, the aid and security questions are two sides of the same coin. Yesterday, the food convoy from Mombasa did get through to western Kenya without alarm or difficulty. That is obviously encouraging, but we will follow the situation very carefully. The ongoing assessment to which he referred is made partly by our staff or by DFID staff on the ground, working closely with the high commission in Nairobi. I am happy to keep the House informed on that basis.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about the nature of the power-sharing arrangements that could come into play. A balance needs to be struck, because it is for the Kenyans to decide the nature of their power sharing, not for us to prescribe a particular type of coalition Government or constitutional arrangement. He reiterated the word that I use, “compromise”. It relates to compromise between the two main political parties, and it is important to stress that clearly. Of course, Kenya has a history of so-called “Governments of national unity”. It had such a Government in 2002, which did not lead to the sort of power sharing that is needed. I hope that he will understand my saying that at this stage we do not want to prescribe a particular type of constitutional or other reform, but we will all know it when we see it: when a Government reflects the divided will of the Kenyan people in respect of the political parties for which they voted.

The head of the EU mission has returned to Brussels, but the deputy head has rightly stayed in-country, so that he can brief President Kufuor and others as they come through. I shall find out for the right hon. Gentleman the formal timing of the write-up from the head of the EU mission, but it will, in part, want to reflect the ongoing investigations.

The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that there are significant obstacles to a full-scale recount. Some people have called for a rerun of the elections, others for a recount or re-tally, and I was careful to refer in my statement to the problems beyond the individual ballot stations as the results were referred onwards. What is important is that any allegations of irregularities are properly followed through—it would be wrong to sweep them under the carpet. I know that that is not what he was suggesting, but the first priority was to stop the violence.

The second priority is to get some sort of political mediation under way. The investigation of the irregularities and the possibility of a further future election obviously will be discussed by the parties. I am happy to confirm to the right hon. Gentleman that the £50 million that we are spending through DFID for the benefit of the Kenyan people, which will be spent on bed nets and other essential development assets, will not be harmed as a result of this process.

In light of the forthcoming debut of the Liberal Democrats’ new foreign affairs spokesman, the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey), perhaps I shall not condemn him until he condemns us, and then we can return—[Interruption.] He says that I will not be disappointed, so I shall save my best volleys until later.

On Pakistan, I was told as I left the office today that there had been agreement on the terms of reference of the Scotland Yard mission to support the Pakistani authorities, and I would certainly like them to be published. Secondly, in respect of the UK funding, which was to support democratic processes, they are as important as ever, and although we keep that funding under review, no decision has been taken to terminate it.

In respect of Afghanistan, I have heard the media reports that were mentioned. The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) asked for our latest assessment. Our latest assessment on the situation in the federally administered areas is not a new one—it is that the lack of political integration between the federally administered areas in Pakistan and the rest of the country is a threat to the integrity and stability of not only Pakistan, but Afghanistan. I have received no reports of it being an immediate threat to our troops, but the sort of instability to which he refers provides a haven for some of those who are attacking our troops and is a real concern for us. I discussed it when I was in Helmand, and I guess that he and his colleagues have discussed it with people there too.

The right hon. Gentleman rightly raised the issue of corruption. He will know that none of the money in our bilateral aid is put through the Kenyan Government. We put the money through non-governmental organisations and other organisations precisely to ensure that it reaches the targets for which it is intended. Good government is an essential part of the sort of democratic process in which he and I believe, and it is certainly something that we are working to achieve.

Kenya needs democracy, not a political fix, because democracy is the way to make leaders accountable to the people. Does the Foreign Secretary share my concern about the statement from the chair of the electoral commission of Kenya that his announcement of President Kibaki’s win was made under duress? Will the Government continue to fund work to strengthen political institutions and parties in Kenya in order to reinforce their commitment to democracy and the rule of law, and their ability to resist anti-democratic pressures wherever they may come from?

I am happy to confirm that to my hon. Friend, who speaks with authority on these issues from his long interest in them. His reference to strengthening parliamentary links is important. The role of political parties needs to be developed, and that is something to which hon. Members and colleagues in the other place can contribute.

I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement and associate my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Liberal Democrat Benches with both his tribute to Benazir Bhutto and his sadness at the violent deaths of so many others in the recent crises in Pakistan and Kenya. Benazir Bhutto was a politician of great courage. She put her life on the line for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan and her death presents the world with the nightmare of an unstable, divided Pakistan.

The Foreign Secretary has described well why we should all be alarmed at recent events in those two countries and the urgent need to restore law and order through democratic means. I pay tribute to his efforts and those of the Prime Minister and many British diplomats in these difficult and often frustrating days. May I say how strongly we agree with much of what the Foreign Secretary has said today—for example, about the decision to send Scotland Yard detectives to assist the investigation into Miss Bhutto’s murder and the humanitarian aid through the Red Cross for parts of Kenya cut off by the violence?

None the less, there remain some serious questions about the judgments made by Britain, the United States and the wider international community, not just in response to these events but well before. On Pakistan, why have the British Government failed to be more critical of the Musharraf regime and its deeply damaging actions, most recently in its attacks on the independence of the judiciary, which the Foreign Secretary failed to mention in his statement? Is it not the case that Britain has been totally complicit with the US policy of bolstering President Musharraf over the years? Does not this crisis show how mistaken that policy has been, with extremism having spread and democratic institutions having been so undermined?

I am sure that the Foreign Secretary will at least agree that democracy is now the way forward, and we welcome the announcement of a new and early timetable for elections. It is clearly essential that Pakistan enjoys elections that are free and as fair as possible in a political climate that is as stable as possible. So can he tell the House what extra support Britain is prepared to offer to the election monitoring mission from the EU? While it is good that the EU is sending 50 so-called long-term observers for the new elections, does he believe that the increase of just seven on the monitoring mission for the 2002 elections is really sufficient, given the heightened tension and especially given that the Commonwealth election monitoring operation was suspended in November and has yet to be invited back to Pakistan? Is there not a danger that the February elections will have less international scrutiny than the flawed 2002 elections? Given the crucial role of the judiciary in supervising elections matters, what representations are being made to President Musharraf to insist that he reverses his recent dismissal of critical judges and ends the intimidation of the entire legal profession?

On Kenya, may I thank the Government in their various public statements for not referring to Mr. Kibaki as the new President? Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that the Government still do not recognise Mr. Kibaki as having been re-elected President? Did the Foreign Secretary share my concern when the US State Department, in the first crucial hours after the poll, rushed to accept the flawed election result? Has he raised the serious consequences of that critical error of judgment with the US Secretary of State?

Is it not the case that a rigged election result was both predictable and preventable, when we saw—more than a year ago—the rigging of the electoral commission of Kenya by President Kibaki? When in January last year Lord Steel of Aikwood raised the issue in the other place, the Foreign Office said that it would take up the matter with the Kenyan Government. What representations were made and were they made at ministerial level? Does the Foreign Secretary accept that the stacking of supposedly independent electoral commissions seriously undermines the task of any international election monitoring mission even before they arrive? Is he aware that with elections due in Angola, Malawi and Ghana in the next 18 months concerns are already being expressed that certain Governments will “do a Kibaki”? Will he undertake to raise with the relevant officials of the EU and the Commonwealth Secretariat the need to reform election monitoring processes so that they begin with preparatory visits to report on the independence of the election authorities themselves?

I am sure that the Government and the wider international community are right to prosecute the case for political parties to work together, not least to end the violence and prevent further chaos, but does the Foreign Secretary accept that a coalition Government can be only an interim solution, not least because President Kibaki has previously reneged on power-sharing deals with Raila Odinga, as the right hon. Gentleman implied? Does not the only sustainable solution lie in fresh elections? Why have the British Government not already called for fresh elections? Does the Foreign Secretary not realise that there is a massive danger of more violence—

Order. I must be fair to Back Benchers. I have already made it known that the Liberal Democrat spokesman should have three minutes. The hon. Gentleman has now taken four minutes, so I must stop him.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new position and look forward to his questions and to our debates. I welcome what he said about Mrs. Bhutto.

The hon. Gentleman raised some serious questions. The policy of the British Government throughout the period in respect of Pakistan, and in respect of other countries, is to support systems of government, not personalities. Before he starts throwing around allegations about whom we have bolstered and how we bolstered them, he should look at what has actually happened in practice. I defy him to find any example of the Government’s supporting the crackdown on the media or the rejection of the development of a state of emergency.

In respect of the judiciary, the judges who were dismissed were precisely those appointed by President Musharraf after 1999, so the hon. Gentleman should be careful about the allegations that he throws around. It is obviously vital that an independent judicial process is established and it is obviously right that we assert the case and continue to argue for an independent judicial process. I do not think it would be right for us to try to dictate about individual judicial cases or individual judges. Our position is to defend constitutional principles and the constitutional order.

In respect of election monitoring, the hon. Gentleman made an important point about the EU mission, which I raised with Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner just before the new year. She confirmed to me that the EU would up the number of monitors to 60 from the 40 who were present for the 9 January elections. Today, there has been some talk of the number being increased to about 100. We obviously want to make sure that, combined with Commonwealth and other monitors, they are able to provide the evidence we need. In addition, I point the hon. Gentleman towards the need for the processes to be very transparent on the Pakistani side, and I am sure he would agree.

I can confirm that we have recognised no new Government in Kenya. In respect of the United States position, I spoke to the Secretary of State on 30, or possibly 31, December. She made it absolutely clear to me that although the United States was happy to congratulate the Kenyan people on the way in which they had participated in the democratic process, it had issued no congratulation to an individual “winner”; that her concerns about the irregularities identified by the EU are serious and real; and that she shares our commitment both to the spirit of compromise to which we referred in our joint statement and, critically, to the sharing of power.

On the wider African elections, I referred in my statement to the forthcoming elections, which is why the engagement of the African Union is particularly important at this stage. The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) asked about a British envoy. Although there are contingency plans for us to have additional Ministers or officials in the region, our first priority has been to try to ensure that an African mediator can go there, which is why we support so strongly the Kufuor mission.

The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) called for fresh elections. Whatever the irregularities of the recent election, they reveal a deeply divided country, and that will not be overcome however many times the election is rerun. Every allegation of irregularity must be investigated, but the deeper issue—the nature of the constitutional system, and whether a winner-takes-all system is right for Kenya—is one that many Kenyans are debating. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that that is an important part of the mediation process that needs to be under way. Of course, fresh elections will be part of the discussions between the political parties, but they will have to be the end of the process, not the beginning of it.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that the people of Kenya are looking to have a Government who reflect the diversity, and not just one particular tribe that happens to look as though it is successful in an election. Speaking from my experience in Kenya long ago, tribes were always important there, but so too was the ability to work together, certainly in the coastal province where I worked. I would appreciate hearing from the Foreign Secretary about how we intend to work with the international community and local people to get the compromise and accommodation that any democracy with such a diverse population needs to move towards.

My right hon. Friend raises the key issue. Her experience in Kenya and that of others in the House will be relevant. In the end, the spirit of compromise has to come from the top; that is why our messages have been direct from the Prime Minister to President Kibaki and Raila Odinga, the Leader of the Opposition. There is also a need for a strong civic society, and political institutions at the local level that are able to bring people together. That process seemed to be starting in 2002. The re-emergence of ethnic divisions is obviously something that all of us deplore and want to avoid.

One of the many tragedies of Pakistan is the pathetically small amount of money spent on education—just 1.8 per cent. of gross domestic product. Illiteracy rates in Pakistan are more than 50 per cent., and are increasing. With the collapse of the Government school system, ever more parents simply have to send their children to madrassahs because there is nowhere else to send them. Pakistan is a good ally, but it could turn into a nightmare, as an increasingly illiterate nuclear state. When the Department for International Development engages with Pakistan through its country programme, will we make sure that we are encouraging Pakistan to spend more of its resources on education? Otherwise, it will be an increasingly faltering state.

The short answer to the hon. Gentleman is yes. He will know from what my colleague the Secretary of State for International Development and I have said that we raise both publicly and privately the fact that less than 2 per cent. of national income is spent on education. Education is at the centre of DFID’s programme in Pakistan, and I discussed the matter last July when I was in Pakistan. It is absolutely at the heart of the development of a functioning society—development that that country will need.

The Foreign Secretary was right to say that what we need for Pakistan is free and fair elections, but also not to let up on counter-terrorism. He briefly mentioned Afghanistan. Even in more stable times, there are hundreds of thousands of people crossing the borders, both ways, on any one day. In the run-up to the elections, the role of Afghanistan will be even more important than it has been. Will he talk to his NATO colleagues so that they make sure that their troops are in Afghanistan to ensure security, and so that they can possibly look at lifting some of the caveats on deployment?

My hon. Friend raises an important point, which was discussed at the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in December. It is always discussed when I meet NATO and other colleagues, because obviously the problem with the Afghan-Pakistan border needs to be addressed on both sides of the border. That involves British and other troops on the Afghan side, and large numbers of Pakistani security forces on the Pakistani side. However, in the end, there needs to be a political and not just a military solution in the federal administrative areas.

I represent some 9,000 voters of Pakistani and Kashmiri origin, and many of them have made clear to me their horror at the murder of Benazir Bhutto. As the Foreign Secretary knows, nearly every serious al-Qaeda plot since 7/7 in Britain has had some connection with Pakistan, so what monitoring arrangements do his Department and the Government have in place to measure the effect of incidents such as the murder of Benazir Bhutto, or the recent storming of the Red Mosque, on communities in Britain who follow very closely what happens in Pakistan, and who are often influenced by what occurs there?

The hon. Gentleman is right that not least through media that are watched both in Britain and in Pakistan there is a common political discussion and discourse across the two countries. We try to stay in touch through our contacts both with community leaders and with ordinary members of the community. Personally, I am suspicious of opinion polls that are bandied around as definitive, and I prefer to rely on more qualitative information. I am sure, however, that he would agree that anything that helps to build a decent society in Pakistan that respects all its different communities can help to lessen tensions and contribute to the notion that the vast majority of Pakistanis, whether in Pakistan or Britain, are dedicated to fighting against al-Qaeda, rather than to fighting for it. That is the battle for hearts and minds in which we are all engaged.

It is unfortunate that two situations that are wholly different in kind, except for the element of violence, should be taken together. However, since successive British Governments have consistently ignored corruption in Kenyan Governments, may I ask the Secretary of State what attempts we have made to provide practical assistance both to protect the populations who have been abandoned in various areas, and to protect transport from Mombasa to western Kenya, which will not only be extremely difficult to keep up but will meet increasing opposition at various points?

I am sorry to hear my hon. Friend say that successive Governments have ignored the corruption in Kenya. As I said earlier, the fact that the British Government give no direct budget support for the Kenyan Government precisely reflects our concerns. Our determination to provide significant aspects of funding through NGOs and other trusted civic society organisations reflects precisely the concerns that she and I share. She is absolutely right to raise the security situation for aid convoys. As I said to the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), so far those convoys have proceeded without interruption, and that is obviously something on which we want to continue to work. Practically, on the ground, the UN and the World Food Programme are in the lead, but our money and people—I referred to the DFID staff in western Kenya—are there to provide support, and to make sure that any reports of interference with those convoys are acted on swiftly.

Let me associate those on my Bench with the condolences to the Bhutto family. We very much hope that those responsible are tracked down and apprehended.

Ordinary Kenyans believe that they have the power to transform their future, and millions of them turned out to vote to do so last month. They think that their voice has not been heard, and they feel disfranchised as a result. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that what is required is strong, independent electoral commissions in developing countries, and will he work with the international community to deliver them and make sure that they are properly supported and resourced?

Yes; of course, independent electoral commissions that have the confidence of different communities in different countries are important. An earlier questioner referred to the electoral commission in Kenya. It would be quite wrong for any cloud to hang over the chairman of the Kenyan commission, who is long-serving and has done a very good job in difficult circumstances. I accept the concerns that have been expressed about the way in which the bodies are filled. It is certainly an important part of British Government policy to ensure that independent electoral commissions are genuinely independent.

The Foreign Secretary will be aware that Britain’s Pakistani community is extremely exercised by events in Pakistan, and the circumstances of Benazir Bhutto’s death remain extremely contentious. We are glad that British police are going out to support the Pakistani police, but does he accept that most people in Pakistan have no confidence in an inquiry led by the Pakistani authorities, whose first act was to hose down the crime scene? Is he telling the House that he has completely ruled out the possibility of a genuine, independent inquiry led by the UN or another international organisation?

I understand and confirm the sense of grief and concern in many Pakistani communities in Britain. The question of an independent inquiry is obviously not one that we can decide; in the end, it must be decided in Pakistan. We have been very active, however, in ensuring that British expertise is available, without fear or favour, to report on the details obtained from a wide range of evidence—not just local forensic evidence, but the detailed video images that many of us have seen on our TV screens that was taken with mobile phones and other mechanisms.

My hon. Friend will recognise that an externally imposed solution has its dangers too. A country such as Pakistan needs to come to terms with its own circumstances and have the confidence of its own people; that is why the emphasis in all aspects of development policy is on generating local solutions. She has cried for independence in the system, and that is what our officials are dedicated to trying to provide for the mission that now exists.

In the light of the instability in Pakistan following recent tragic events and the need for security and calm in the run-up to the delayed general election, has the Foreign Secretary any information about the possible movement of Taliban members from Afghanistan to the areas of Pakistan where the Taliban are most strong? They may give further grounds for instability.

Obviously, we follow that issue very carefully on all channels—not just in the aftermath of a terrible tragedy such as that in Pakistan, but all the time. All reports are followed up; some are in the media, others are not. The best thing to say is that we take very seriously the need to act on both sides of the border to promote the security not only of our own people but of the development of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I mourn Benazir Bhutto, who was my friend. Is my right hon. Friend aware that in her final greetings card, Benazir prayed for peace in the world and happiness for family in 2008? That is bitterly ironic from a woman whose father and other family members were brutally murdered—as she was, ultimately. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the greatest tribute to that brave and charismatic woman, whose final card showed the sun rising over Pakistan, would be properly conducted elections next month, resulting not in hereditary or military democracy, but in a deeply rooted democracy, which would be a memorial to Benazir?

My right hon. Friend has spoken powerfully and completely correctly about the memorial that needs to exist to Mrs. Bhutto, who acted with huge courage, knowing the risks that she faced. We are completely committed to the deep democracy to which he refers, and I know that we will pursue it with him and all his effort.

May I press the Foreign Secretary on the matter, raised by the shadow Foreign Secretary, of those who have fled Kenya to neighbouring countries such as Uganda? Will he give an assurance that, where humanitarian aid is concerned, those who have fled Kenya are also taken into account? A country such as Uganda has its own economic problems; the last thing that it wants is starving and hungry people fleeing from Kenya.

Of course, the hon. Gentleman is right. The international community cannot get into the situation of determining the amount of help that refugees get according to which side of the border they are. We have an active programme in Uganda.

I say to the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) that we do not yet have reports of the issue becoming a cross-border one. The more than 120,000 or 130,000 people in the Rift valley remain there; they have not moved from that area, although they have moved from their homes. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows as well as I that Kenya has a strong civic society that provides family and other support. That partly explains why, certainly to our knowledge, the vast majority of refugees are in the country.

Speaking as a Member of Parliament who represents a very large Pakistani community and a not insubstantial community of people who are Kenyan citizens, I believe that the thing that connects the two issues is the sentiment common to all people that if ordinary voters can decide the future of their country, they can have confidence in their Government. There is an opportunity for that to happen in Pakistan, but it requires not only an independent judiciary, to which other hon. Members have referred, but an open media. What can the UK Government do to help with that, because unless there is open reporting people will fear that the election is not independent?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We can best support the open media that she and I support by making direct representations to the Pakistani authorities, which we have been doing, and by ensuring that a free media is part of the demands that are made by organisations such as the Commonwealth and others. We are certainly determined to do that.

I join the Foreign Secretary in his words of condemnation of the violence in Kenya and in Pakistan and thank him for his statement to the House. In light of the brutal killing of the women and children in the church on 1 January and the fear that that has engendered, what contact has been made by the British authorities with British citizens in Kenya, especially missionaries, and what advice has been given to them?

The hon. Gentleman raises a really important point, which I have discussed regularly with the high commissioner. As he probably knows, there is a system of ward outreach to British nationals in Kenya, as in many countries, whereby we try to ensure that the vast bulk of them, if not all, are registered with the high commission. The best means of contact, whether that be telephone or other methods such as e-mail, are established so that they can be kept in touch with actions. If the hon. Gentleman has any contact with missionaries whom he thinks might not be part of that telephone or e-mail tree, I am happy to recognise that. However, we are determined to try to ensure that in all countries, such as Kenya, we have rapid systems for making contact with as many British citizens as possible. So far, the system seems to be working, because although we have put on call a series of crisis teams, the number of calls to the Foreign Office in London and to the British high commission in Nairobi has been relatively limited, usually in single figures on any one day. That suggests that the mechanisms that we have in place are working, but we are always happy to try to improve them.

The Foreign Secretary rightly drew attention to the rising and widespread growth of inequality in Kenya and in Pakistan. Would he care to reflect on the fact that the world is now seeing on its television sets the appalling poverty in the slums in Kenya and the failure of the democratic system to provide any sort of equality of opportunity for many people in Kenya, and that in Pakistan successive military Governments have spent a vast amount of the nation’s resources on weapons of mass destruction, which have obviously had an impact on many people’s lives? Does he have any hope that a restoration of a proper democratic system in both countries will help to close this yawning gap, which is at the heart of an awful lot of these problems?

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to this matter, and I am pleased that he does so. Yes, I do have hope, but there is no point in looking at this through rose-tinted spectacles. Hope needs to lead to decisions that make a difference. Economic growth is the first precondition for tackling the endemic poverty that he and I abhor. In 2005, I saw for myself in the Kibera slum in the centre of Nairobi the sort of conditions to which he refers. Hope needs to lead to choices, which are best made on the basis of a democratic mandate, in the interests of stability and equality. However, no one who visits Kibera can say that this is anything other than a long-term challenge and one that it would be absurd to be glib about. That is why it is right to talk about five, 10, 15 or 20-year challenges, not just five-day or five-month challenges.

The Secretary of State talks about combating terrorism, but fails to mention the one thing that links Pakistan to events in Afghanistan and to 9/11, 7/7, Bali and Madrid—the al-Qaeda training camps that are on the Pakistani border. Does he agree that Pakistan should now hold up its hands and say that it cannot contain that 400-mile mountainous border and that international help is needed, because otherwise we will continue to see a conveyor belt of suicide bombers coming out of that area, causing mayhem not only in Pakistan but in other places around the world?

The hon. Gentleman does not need to find division across the House on that point. He will have heard in my statement the reference to the joint fight against al-Qaeda. He will also know that we are strongly committed to the international support for the Pakistan and Afghanistan Governments that will be necessary. However, that cannot merely be military support. In the end, there needs to be a political solution in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. A military element is needed, but it will not do the trick on its own. There is room for common ground across the House on that point, and that is what I am determined to try to seek.

On Kenya, how will my right hon. Friend, who said that it is down to Kenyans to decide, and the international community assess the validity of any coalition Government? How will they expect such a Government to perform on power sharing and tackling corruption, and what will they expect the possible duration to be? If problems with electoral fraud are proven, Kenya needs not only to be able to move forward, but to do so with the full confidence and support of the international community.

I know that my hon. Friend has spent time in Kenya and has good contacts there. In answer to an earlier question, I said that I thought that any Government who would command the confidence of the Kenyan people needed to involve the main Opposition party. Government needed to involve both Government and Opposition. That is the first test.

Secondly, the duration would obviously be a subject of discussion. All sorts of time frames are being bandied around by the Opposition and the Government. Obviously, it could not be longer than five years, but a range of other durations are being suggested. Some would make the new Government more interim than would others. The diverse communities in Kenya and the diverse votes that they cast in the election need genuinely to be recognised, and that is the sort of Government that our Government would be keen to support.

While nobody would underestimate the difficulty of protecting any democratic politician, is it not concerning that the assassin was able to get to Benazir Bhutto so soon after her return to Pakistan? Is the Foreign Secretary concerned about the extent of militant influence over the Pakistan security forces? If so, is he convinced that when carrying out his entirely laudable aim to increase co-operation on terrorism with the Pakistan security forces any information would remain secure?

Obviously I am concerned about the ability of terrorists to strike at the heart of Pakistan, not only on 27 December but in October when Mrs. Bhutto returned to Pakistan. However, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we have full confidence that the counter-terrorism co-operation in which we are engaged with the Government of Pakistan is in the interests not only of Pakistan but of the UK, too.

It is not often that I agree with the comments or views of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Galloway), but he makes a valid point today, writing in the Daily Record, that the tribalism in Kenya is another form of nationalism. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that if we are to learn lessons from Kenya, which was a perfectly stable country until recently, the people who promote extreme nationalism in this country should be careful with their language and also with their actions?

I am happy to agree that we should always be careful about our language and our actions while recognising that countries can be very different. I think that my hon. Friend and I share the view that the constitutional arrangements in the UK respect diverse views in a way that builds on what we hold together while recognising what is different.

The Prime Minister, on Kenya, has used expressions such as “these are the objectives I wish to see”. The Foreign Secretary has outlined the type of political system that he might like to see in Kenya and replied affirmatively to the point made by the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) about the need for political parties here to get involved in Kenya. Those are all political objectives of the British Government, the merits of which can be debated in the House. However, the Foreign Secretary presides over a Department that will have to cut three missions in Africa, while the Department for International Development is unable to assist in the pursuit of British national objectives in the way described by the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister and others. Is the Foreign Secretary satisfied that the balance of investment to support the British national effort is correct?

Yes. I would like to know where the hon. Gentleman thinks that DFID is not fulfilling an agenda that is in the British national interest—or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, for that matter. The consular response in these cases has shown our ability to do so; the political response, ditto. As always in the seven years of discussion I have had with the hon. Gentleman, if he is willing to provide any details I will be happy to follow them up and get in touch with him.

The Foreign Secretary is very aware of the desire of al-Qaeda and similar organisations to inflict mass casualties. Is he confident in the security of nuclear weapons and matériel in Pakistan?

It is good that the hon. Gentleman raises that matter, which was raised on the two previous occasions when I talked about Pakistan. I am happy to confirm that nothing has been reported to us since 27 December that would compromise our assessment of the integrity and safety of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.

Given the ambiguous credentials of Pakistani intelligence agencies, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson) referred, did the Government, in their conversations with Benazir Bhutto, offer her any advice about personal security, especially after the first attempt on her life?

At both ministerial and official level, discussions were held about Mrs. Bhutto’s sense of security and the provision that was being made for her. It would be wrong to pretend that I was in a position to offer her personal advice about that, but I know that representations were made at a high level to ensure that her concerns were properly taken into account.

Does the Secretary of State agree that, if an EU monitoring commission finds that the presidential elections were rigged, Kibaki’s position would be untenable and that he would rightly become an international pariah? Does he also agree that in such circumstances, smart sanctions aimed at Kibaki and his cronies, their travel arrangements and moving money abroad, would be justified?

Sanctions are only but always justified when they have a clear objective and contribute to that objective. It is dangerous at this stage to start dealing in the hypothetical position that the hon. Gentleman outlines because there is clearly a need to bridge the current gap between what the Government in Kenya and the Opposition say about their willingness to engage in discussions. They are both talking about the matter but they have not yet bridged the gap. Our focus is on bridging that gap. If we fail, we must examine all the consequences, including those of our actions.