British MEP, Sajjad Karim, was yesterday presented with Pakistan’s highest national honour to non-Pakistanis for services that have helped the country.
He was awarded the Sitara-i-Qaid-i-Azam in Islamabad by Mamnoon Hussain, the President of Pakistan, joining ranks with the British Queen and Nelson Mandela.
Dr Karim – who represents the North West of England – has been one of the most prominent British politicians to advocate Pakistan’s case within the EU, and the UK has been at the forefront in supporting Pakistan. Links have developed significantly over the past decade through the efforts of Sajjad and the European Parliament Friends of Pakistan group which he founded in 2004.
In December 2013, following an eight year campaign, the European Parliament finally approved GSP+ trade status for Pakistan, which allows Pakistani textiles to flow easily into Europe. It is estimated to create one million jobs in the country’s ailing textile industry and the EU and UK are keen to combat terrorism by supporting stability and security in the region. European consumers will also benefit from cheaper imports made in Pakistan.
The EU Ambassador to Pakistan, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, recently praised the GSP grant, saying:
“I am happy to tell you that GSP+ is working. In the first three quarters of the calendar year we have seen an increase in Pakistani exports to EU markets of 662 million Euros compared to 2013. In the third quarter this increase alone was 245 million Euros. This is all the more remarkable since I understand that in the same quarter there was a drop in Pakistani exports overall, making the EU one of the few growth markets. This clearly illustrates the potential of the instrument.
“We have not yet received the figures for the whole year, but we expect the positive trend will continue, and the overall amount should be about 1 billion US Dollars or more than 100 billion Rupees. This represents an increase of more than 20 percent in exports from Pakistan to the EU.”
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also congratulated the nation on the EU’s granting of the trade category.
“Award of GSP+ status shows confidence of the international markets on the excellent quality of Pakistani products.
“This status will enable Pakistan to export more than $1 billion worth of products to the international markets. Only the textile industry will earn profits of more than Rs1 trillion per year.”
The PM said an increase in exports would facilitate Pakistan’s economic growth and help millions of new jobs for generations to come.
In recognition of his work towards achieving this, Dr Karim was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Management and Technology in Lahore and travelled to Pakistan to be presented with the award by the then Governor of Punjab, Mohammad Sawar, himself a past Member of the UK Parliament in Westminster.
British Prime Minister, David Cameron – who Dr Karim has worked closely with – acknowledged his work saying:
“Saj is a hardworking MEP who spearheaded tariff free access to the EU for Pakistan and has done much to promote relations between the UK, EU and Pakistan.
“I congratulate him on being awarded the Sitara-i-Quaid-i-Azam. You are a great ambassador for the party, the region and the United Kingdom.”
The European Conservatives & Reformists Group leader, Syed Kamall MEP, also spoke highly of Dr Karim:
“Congratulations to Sajjad on being awarded the Sitara-i-Qaid-i-Azam. Sajjad is a diligent MEP and has been an advocate of EU-Pakistan relations during his time in the European Parliament. This award recognises his years of commitment to maintaining and building closer ties between the EU and Pakistan.”
Commenting on being presented the award, Dr Karim said:
“Through the Friends of Pakistan group, I have been honoured to champion UK/EU relations with Pakistan and to know that our work has benefitted the people of Pakistan. So many individuals played a role in developing stronger links between the EU and Pakistan, I am merely fortunate to be recognised on all of their behalf.
“I feel truly privileged to be presented with this award and I will never forget this day. As a British Pakistani, I will always strive to further strengthen connections between the UK, EU and Pakistan. It has been a long road towards achieving what we set out to do and we still have far to travel, encouraging Pakistan on the route to greater economic and political stability, as well as growth.”