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British Nationals in Pakistan

Volume 648: debated on Tuesday 30 October 2018

6. What progress he is taking to ensure effective consular support is available to British nationals in Pakistan. (907348)

I cannot even get back to my seat—it is a tough old day on the Asia brief. I appreciate that this is a serious issue for the hon. Lady. We encourage all British nationals visiting or residing in Pakistan to read our travel advice and ensure they have the appropriate insurance. While most visits are trouble free, of course we have a very dedicated consular team ready to provide support to those most in need.

My constituent Ali Soofi has serious concerns that his nephew, a British citizen, is being held against his will in Pakistan—he has been for more than a year now—and that his life is in danger. A court order issued by the high court in Lahore back on 15 August acknowledged Mr Soofi’s poor health and recommended the assistance of the British high commission in facilitating his return to the UK for medical treatment. To date, he has not been able to return. Consular assistance seems very soft touch, I am afraid to say. Can the Minister intervene in this case to ensure that all means possible are used to ensure that Mr Soofi gets home to Scotland as soon as possible?

Naturally I can. I thank the hon. Lady, who has done sterling work in relation to the case of her constituent Mr Soofi. As she knows, I wrote to her on 24 October with the latest on this case and, in view of its sensitivities, offered to meet her and discuss it privately in more detail. I very much look forward to doing so once our offices have agreed a mutually convenient date.

Many British nationals in Pakistan are involved in trade. A year ago I went to GlaxoSmithKline’s factory in Karachi, which is one of its largest and most profitable in the world. However, given the size of our Department for International Development presence in Pakistan, which is the equal largest in the world, and our consular presence there, what more can the FCO do with the Department for International Trade to boost our commercial activity in Pakistan?

I thank my right hon. Friend for that question. He will know that the UK shares a long-standing relationship with Pakistan. We have the strongest of cultural and historical ties and, of course, a very large diaspora. On the trade side, I have been working on trying to ensure that that diaspora plays its part in ensuring ever stronger trading connections between our two countries.