Lord Sheikh attended and spoke at the Second Afghanistan-UK Business Conference held in London on Monday 14th October 2019.
The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in the United Kingdom organised the conference in cooperation with International Chamber of Commerce in Afghanistan and International Chamber of Commerce in the United Kingdom. The conference was a unique platform for networking and to strengthen the trade links between Afghanistan and the UK, especially British investment in Afghanistan.
The conference was very well attended.
Lord Sheikh spoke on the subjects of banking and insurance. He referred to the bilateral trade relationships between the UK and Afghanistan and spoke on the development and establishment of Islamic Finance and Insurance activities in Afghanistan.
Lord Sheikh spoke of his background in the financial services and noted the good relationship the UK has with Afghanistan. He encouraged attendees to support Afghan trade, especially in light of Brexit. He appreciated that more needs to be done to encourage a strong business environment in Afghanistan and improve issues relating to security.
Lord Sheikh advised that he co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamic Finance in the British Parliament which is a robust Group with a lot of support. He also stated that London has the largest Islamic finance market outside the Muslim world and has assets of Islamic finance which exceed $20 billion. Therefore, the UK can play a vital role in the establishment and expansion of these activities in Afghanistan in a number of ways.
Lord Sheikh concluded by stating that he hopes that the conference will be productive and that the UK and Afghanistan can work together to promote more business activities in all walks of life and attract investments into Afghanistan.
Lord & Lady Sheikh met a Parliamentary delegation from Afghanistan led by the Speaker of their Parliament H.E. Younus Qanooni. The British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union had organised a Welcoming Reception in the Houses of Parliament for the cross-party Parliamentary delegation from Afghanistan, His Excellency was accompanied by two lady Members of the Afghani Parliament.
During his discussions Lord Sheikh expressed pleasure that there were now women Members of Parliament and steps were being taken for the empowerment of women. Lord Sheikh also said that he supported initiatives to build infrastructure, provide help to the agricultural programmes and win over the Taliban.
Lord Sheikh, in conjunction with CMF Youth, hosted and chaired a meeting in the House of Lords for the Associate Parliamentary Group for Afghanistan and the British Council Associate Parliamentary Group. The discussion focused on education and global citizenship in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Other members of the panel included Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods MP (Chair of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Afghanistan), Sue Beaumont (British Council Director Pakistan), Sital Dhillon (British Council Director Afghanistan) and Paul Rowen MP.
Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:
What recent efforts they have made to persuade other NATO members to reduce the number of caveats in some countries’ rules of engagement in Afghanistan. [HL5097]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My right honourable friends the Foreign Secretary, the Defence Secretary and other Ministers are in regular contact with NATO members to discuss all aspects of Allied contributions to Afghanistan, including national caveats. The UK has also fully supported efforts made by NATO itself to keep these caveats to a minimum in order to give commanders on the ground greater operational flexibility. It is noteworthy that France and Germany reduced the caveats on their Afghanistan deployments following the NATO summit in Riga on 28 and 29 November 2006.
Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:
What measures they have taken to encourage other NATO countries, such as France and Germany, to deploy extra troops to Afghanistan.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, my right honourable friends the Prime Minister, Defence Secretary and Foreign Secretary have spoken with their counterparts in France and Germany in recent weeks. These discussions included the need to ensure that commanders on the ground have access to the resources that they need to carry out ISAF’s mission. Military advice on force and capability requirements is provided by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. The issue was most recently discussed at the Foreign Ministers’ informal meeting in Oslo in April and by Defence Ministers in Brussels in June.
Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that response. I speak at meetings and seminars, and often the subject relates to foreign affairs. My Question was prompted by my feeling that our military capability is not in line with our present overseas commitments. The UK, the US and some other countries shoulder a disproportionate amount of the burden in Afghanistan and there seems to be little sign of other NATO countries providing more substantial troop movements.
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Noble Lords: Question!
Lord Sheikh: My Lords, have we examined carefully our deployment in Afghanistan and the need to increase the strength of our forces generally and provide them with adequate resources?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord’s concern is shared by many in this House. This is the third time that I have risen to discuss Afghanistan during my short tenure here. As the noble Lord knows, the UK is the second biggest troop contributor—second only to the United States—providing some 7,000 troops. However, we work continuously with our partners in ISAF to try to raise the deployment numbers of our allies in this endeavour.