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Development Aid: Pakistan

Volume 799: debated on Wednesday 2 October 2019


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will take steps to ensure that the United Kingdom’s development aid supports the most vulnerable minorities, particularly in Pakistan.

My Lords, UK aid prioritises the most vulnerable, excluded and disadvantaged, including those caught in crises and those most at risk of violence and discrimination. Promoting tolerance and inclusion is a core principle across our Pakistan programme and we also have programmes specifically supporting minorities. We regularly raise the needs of minority communities with the Government of Pakistan.

I thank the Minister for his reply, particularly for saying that DfID focuses on the most vulnerable, but in Pakistan this is simply not happening. There are communities there which are twice distinguished by their poverty; first, on religious grounds, as either Hindus or Christians; secondly, because they are Dalits. Of course, if they are women, they are discriminated against on a third ground. Is it not possible for DfID to disaggregate its aid in order to identify, focus on and target such minorities?

My Lords, the noble and right reverend Lord makes a very good point about ensuring that we target aid to the people who need it. DfID Pakistan continues to review its support to poor and marginalised people in Pakistan and we aim to better disaggregate our results data in future. We recently had some success in collecting more and better-quality data on people with disabilities in Pakistan, and this also picked up other minorities. We have learned from that and will build on it to focus our energy on collecting data from these other groups.

My Lords, the Minister will be aware that a key part of our support for Pakistan is the CSSF’s rule of law programme, which aims to increase Pakistan’s civilian capacity to investigate, detain, prosecute and try terrorists. He will also be aware that Pakistan routinely uses the death penalty, including against those who are alleged to have committed terrorism offences as juveniles. He talks about targeting how aid is used, so can he guarantee to this House today that not a single penny of the CSSF has been used to indirectly support the death penalty in Pakistan in any way?

My Lords, as the noble Baroness is perfectly aware, we condemn the death penalty wherever and by whoever it is used anywhere in the world. We cannot support this barbaric penalty. I cannot give individual details on that programme, but I will ensure that that information gets to the noble Baroness. I should also point out that the rule of law is paramount. For example, in the Asia Bibi case we are very pleased to see Pakistan’s commitment to the rule of law following the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s decision in January this year to uphold Asia Bibi’s acquittal on blasphemy charges.

My Lords, the Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development—CREID—was recently set up, tasked with looking at how poverty reduction efforts can actively support inclusive and religiously diverse communities, which I am sure we all welcome. I understand that CREID is funded by UK aid. Can the Minister say where oversight of it lies within government and how its effectiveness is being monitored? I am happy to receive a response in writing.

I thank the noble Baroness for that question and will confirm in writing the exact details she asks for. I should add that DfID’s Pakistan education programme is our largest bilateral education programme, having supported nearly 10 million children in primary education and 5.8 million in secondary education since 2011. It is also important to note that other practical support for education includes improving the teacher training curriculum, including modules on equity and inclusion.

My Lords, if the answer to my question is not in his answer to the previous questioner, will my noble friend undertake to let us know through the Library or whatever other means what proportion of the money that this country gives to Pakistan every year is devoted to focused targets on the most needy, and what proportion of it is not predicated on any requirement for any standard treatment of justice and the rule of law?

My Lords, our DfID programme this year has amounted to £300 million. The important point to remember on this is that DfID is active in making the case that the most stable societies are those which uphold the right to freedom of religion and belief. The stability of the whole country is reflected in that. We also regularly challenge our partners to demonstrate that they are doing all they can to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people, including religious minorities. The point of this aid is to target those minority groups, and that is what we are doing.

My Lords, does the Minister not agree that part of the problem—I came across this with two big schemes I was involved with in Pakistan—is corruption? The amount of money that trickles down to where you want it to have effect has by then gone through layer after layer of provincial governors and others who, I fear, have sticky fingers, and is very small. How can we ensure that DfID money actually hits the people who really need it, rather than feeding corruption?

The noble Lord makes a very good point: targeting aid to those minority groups is useless if it will not reach them in the first place. One of the primary aims of the department is to ensure that the aid targeted at those minority groups actually reaches them. That is kept continually under review.