Founder Editor Tazeen Akhtar..

Interview - Tazeen Akhtar - Photos – Khadim Hussain

Deutschland (Germany) is situated in the heart of Central Europe. With its 82 million people it is the country with the most inhabitants within the European Union. The Federal Republic of Germany comprises of 16 states (Bundesländer) and covers 357021 km². The metropolises of the country are Berlin, Hamburg, München, Köln and Frankfurt. As measured by the gross domestic product Germany is one of the biggest national economies worldwide.

Pakistan was among the first partners of Germany in  Development Cooperation that goes back to 1961, with the funding volume to date totaling some 2.5 billion Euros. Ambassador Ina Lepel is the first lady ambassador of Germany to Pakistan. She is working very hard to bring two nations more closer and enhance mutual cooperation in all possible spheres of trade, economy, social uplift, infrastructure etc. Her tenure here is not more than three months but she has performed remarkably so far. High delegation visits and agreements in different sectors go to her credit.

Germany’s Federal Foreign Minister Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Islamabad. His delegation included members of the German parliament Mr. CemÖzdemir (Chairman of the Green Party) and Dr. Ute Finckh-Krämer (Social-Democratic Party). The high level delegation called on  Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif and Sartaj Aziz, the Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, as well as the Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif.

The German Deputy Development Minister, Thomas Silberhorn, visited Pakistan last month.Under the auspices of Minister Dar and Deputy Minister Silberhorn three agreements comprising 60 Million Euro (7 billion PKR) German development cooperation for Pakistan through KfW Development Bank were signed.

In order to help overcoming the power shortage faced by the people of Pakistan, the groundbreaking for Sub-Station Ghazi Road marked the beginning of a new NTDC facility in Lahore. This Sub-Station uses state of the art Gas Insulated Switchgear Technology which increases the overall efficiency.

While unveiling the plaque on the site,17 Sep 2015,  the visiting German Deputy Development Minister Mr. Thomas Silberhorn said: “The cooperation between Pakistan and Germany in the area of energy has been longstanding and successful. German financing for Pakistan’s energy sector began with constructing a transmission line that linked Multan with Faisalabad. This helped the growth of the textile industry. Since then Germany has supported many landmark projects like Mangla, Tarbela, Ghazi-Barotha and others with a total installed capacity of about 12000MW.”

As H.E Ina Lepel was part of all these activities. We requested her to give time for an interview to talk on mutual relations. H.

E very graciously spared two hours from her busy schedule and we had a very pleasant discussion with her in her office on 29th Sep morning. Anna Emannuel from German Embassy , Dr Shoaib Ahmad, and Uzma Osho from Pakistan in the World were also present. Here is the interview for our readers interest and information. It is the first interview to any Pakistani Journal.

Q; How do you see status of Pakistani women in our society? What is your opinion about their empowerment? 

A; Women empowerment is a most important thing. I am impressed to see many successful women in Pakistan  but on the other hand there is also a different side of the picture. A large number of women are in a weaker position. For instance if they give birth to a girl child the family is often disappointed. I am the first lady ambassador of Germany to Pakistan. Certainly I have special interest in women’s well- being.

Pakistani women are energetic and have good sense of humor. They give full attention towards education of their children. That is the most impressive thing for me.


Q; What were your feelings when you were appointed Ambassador to Pakistan? As there is an impression about Pakistan in the west that it is not safe country?

A; I was here in 2006. At that time security was not a big issue. I remained here until 2009. That year terrorism became a big problem. Then I left for new assignment. During my first assignment, my German friends used to talk about security situation of Pakistan and most of them were negative. I always looked at it differently. I used to tell them that the situation is different in different parts of country. Before coming back to Pakistan, I received a picture of Faisal Masjid from a friend. There were a lot of flowers blossoming around the Masjid. I showed this picture to my European friends and they were astonished to see that this is Islamabad Pakistan.


Q; How will you evaluate the situation after Operation Zarb e Azb and National Action Plan?

A; The security situation looks much better now than 2009. There are still some terror attacks but overall situation is improved. In 2009, there was huge tension. Everyone was so nervous. Now we can feel the change both, objectively and subjectively. Trust and confidence has been built.

Q; What is your take about Pakistan?

A; Pakistan is very interesting country. People are out spoken. I find it easy to converse here. You get different opinions and stories on one matter. It helps you to correctly understand the situation. Pakistanis are a very hospitable nation. I feel good here especially when I take it professionally. I had good impressions while coming to Pakistan to assume my duties.


Q; Germany is one of the biggest contributors in helping IDPs go back to normal life. How do you see this process and what you will suggest to the authorities?

A; IDPs need our attention. Government of Pakistan is looking after them carefully. We appreciate that Gov of Pakistan has made provision in new budget for cash and transport grants. Further it has been helpful that Gov has provided the donors with a consolidated needs assessment for IDPs' restoration to normal life. Gov and FATA Secretariat are doing their best. UNO has also contributed a lot. Now development donors can look into this matter. We are doing our work through GIZ, FATA Development Program, KFW/ SRSP community development program. Our institutions are already engaged here.

FATA Reforms are necessary for the development and uplift of this area. We encourage reforms program. More can be done through good governance in FATA.


Q; Germany Pakistan dialogue has been scheduled this year. What is the importance of this dialogue?

A; The dialogue on 28th of Oct is about the cooperation between Germany and Pakistan during next two years. Our Deputy Development Minister Mr. Thomas Silberhorn who visited Pakistan last month will head German side while Federal Secretary Mr. Sethi will head Pakistani team. Berlin will host this dialogue in November. Two sides will discuss the priority areas for the cooperation. Energy, governance and sustainable economic development will be the key issues in this dialogue.

Q; Pakistan is facing energy crisis. Germany is cooperating in this sector as last month a grid station in Lahore was inaugurated by your visiting minister Mr. Thomas. What are the prospects of Alternative or Renewable Energy cooperation?

A; Alternative Energy has become an important component of energy sources. Germany has a vast experience in this sector. We can offer cooperation and share experiences in this regard. Another important thing that we lay emphasis on is energy efficiency.


Q; UN Security Council enlargement is being discussed. Many countries are candidate of permanent membership. Germany is also a perfect candidate. Pakistan is opposing the enlargement. What is German stance on increasing number of permanent members?

A; Germany is a potential candidate, but the key point for us is reforms in UNSC regarding size, composition and working methods. It is not working according to the geo political realities of the world. There were 9 members in the start, then 15. After sixties a large number of countries became member of UNO. Now the number is 193. The UNSC's decisions will not enjoy respect in the membership if the Council is not adapted to the new global realities. Important regions like Africa deserve more representation.

Germany advocates elections of additional permanent members. Reforms are our priority. Institutional reforms are the need of the hour in UNO and UNSC.

Q; Pakistan is promoting technical and vocational education to overcome unemployment. What are the chances for our skilled labor in Germany and EU?

A; Germany has a vast experience in technical and vocational education. We can bring new ideas in this sector. During next 5 years, until 2020, this technical and vocational education will remain in focus because we find it necessary for economic development. Vocational education together with social security, micro finance and job creation are our main priorities to the goal of economic prosperity. We think economic development must be broad based. Labor standards should be better. For Pakistan, Germany is extending cooperation in this sector.

Europe and Germany need skilled labor but we will prefer the workers from around our country who can understand our language.


Q; Pakistan got access in EU market through GSP status. Germany supported Pakistan for that opportunity. Do you think Pakistan has utilized this status in true sense?

A; GSP has helped increase Pakistani exports to EU up to 20 %. If we take Germany-Pakistan trade, its balance is in Pakistan's favor. This is a good start. But GSP is a package in which there are 27 Conventions that Pakistan is supposed to implement in letter and spirit. For example, Pakistan must work for the safety of environment, good governance, labor reforms etc. The most important of all is Moratorium on Death Penalty. Pakistan has lifted it and restored the death penalty.


Q; What consequences Death Penalty can bring to Pakistan? EU can take back GSP status?

A; That is being observed in the EU in particular with regard to the 27 conventions. The Pakistani Government has also been contacted in this regard. If these problems remain here then EU will take negative impressions.  GSP for Pakistan will be reviewed at the end of this year in EU.

Q; Pakistan is facing severe type of terrorism. We have seen APS and other attacks. That is why Pakistan had to go to death penalties. EU will not consider the special circumstances of Pakistan?

A; Actually, EU considers Moratorium on Death Penalty as a fundamental issue. So no justification can satisfy the decision makers. In our view death penalty is inhuman and the chances of irreversible mistakes also remain there. That can bring more damages than gains.


Q; China Pakistan Economic Corridor is much talked and discussed matter in and around Pakistan. Can EU countries also benefit from this road?

A; CPEC will hopefully improve the connectivity in the region. Infrastructure is important for development and better energy supply. Companies from European countries can also benefit from this corridor.


Q; At the end, will you give some message for our readers?

A; Yes, I want to tell people of Pakistan, Do not resort to unlawful means of travel to Europe. Agents are exploiting innocent people. Do not trust these agents. We welcome you for education, business and other lawful purposes. A large number of Pakistani students are studying in our institutions. Pakistanis can come to Europe through legal process. But taking boats and trucks to reach EU without the necessary visa is not only illegal but it can also endanger your life.