‘Role of press is to challenge people in power’

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KARACHI: The role of the press is to challenge the people in government and power. The security situation has improved in Pakistan, which is why we encourage tourists to come here, though there are areas of reservation. We have expressed our concern to the Indian government regarding the human and constitutional rights situation in Kashmir. These were some of the points made by German Ambassador to Pakistan Dr Bernhard Schlagheck at a Meet the Press event organised by the Karachi Press Club (KPC) on Tuesday evening.

Dr Schlagheck first addressed the media for a few minutes after which he took questions. In his speech he said the club was one of the very few appointments in Karachi that he was looking forward to. Places such as the club were essential to democracy. Referring to the demonstration that was taking place outside the club prior to the programme he pointed out that it was testament to the vitality and vibrancy of the KPC. It showed the trust that civil society put in the club.

“The role of the press is to challenge people in power. The people in power sometimes don’t like what you write, sometimes they do, but you shouldn’t be discouraged by that,” he said.

German Ambassador to Pakistan Dr Bernhard Schlagheck interacts with the media

The first question that was put to the ambassador was about the security situation in Pakistan. Dr Schlagheck replied that over the last couple of years they’d seen considerable improvement in the security situation in the country. Perhaps it didn’t apply to every nook and cranny of Pakistan. But they were constantly checking the situation. All in all, he said, he’d encourage German tourists to come to Pakistan.

On the subject of economic cooperation between Germany and Pakistan, he said it’s primarily business-to-business relations. In Germany, the government couldn’t tell companies to invest in Pakistan or Vietnam etc. It’s basically the decision of private companies to decide where to invest. The government could provide the necessary framework for companies to decide where to do business. At that point Dr Schlagheck asked the German Consul General in Karachi, Eugen Wollfarth, who was sitting next to him, to speak on the topic because he thought he was better suited to respond to the query. Mr Wollfarth told journalists about the different steps that Germany had taken in that regard and remarked that Pakistan was a business opportunity and they needed to identify it, but echoed what the ambassador had said that it’s a business-to-business decision of private enterprises and therefore must be convincing [for German businessmen].

Answering a question about his predecessor Martin Kobler and his penchant for using social media, Dr Schlagheck appreciated his services as ambassador. Calling him unconventional in his approach to work, he called himself more conventional. “There is substance even beyond social media,” he remarked.

On the issue of GSP Plus status and the direction Pakistan was moving in, Dr Schlagheck said it’s an EU process. “We are talking to the EU leaders.” He stressed that the process was critical. In principle, he was of the view that Pakistan was moving in the right direction but there was [still] some work to do for the Pakistani government.

Responding to Germany’s stance on the crisis in held Kashmir, the ambassador said from the very beginning, Germany had conveyed to India that it’s concerned about the human and constitutional rights situation in Kashmir. We had reiterated our concern. When it came to the status of Jammu and Kashmir, Germany had always said that the revocation of Article 370 did affect the security of the region. We had asked both sides to refrain from any kind of escalation, he added.

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