HC Deb 24 February 1972 vol 831 cc1487-8
Q1. Mr. Wilkinson

asked the Prime Minister whether he will seek an early meeting with the President of Pakistan.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

I have been keeping in close touch with President Bhutto, but there are at present no plans for us to meet.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my right hon. Friend, or at least his right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, see the President of Pakistan at the earliest opportunity, because it will be in his recollection that in November, 1971, Mrs. Ghandi paid a visit to this country and in January, 1972, Sheikh Mujib paid a visit to this country? It is about time that we showed a bipartisan attitude to our policy in the subcontinent with personal visits of this nature.

The Prime Minister

That has always been our position as a Government. My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary is hoping to visit Pakistan at an early date. Meanwhile, President Bhutto knows that he would be very welcome in this country if he wished to come. We have also indicated that we shall be very happy for a meeting between President Bhutto and Sheikh Mujib to take place in London if they both so wish.

Mr. Kaufman

Is the Prime Minister aware that many Pakistanis resident in this country would be happy if Pakistan reconsidered her decision and decided to retract her withdrawal from the Commonwealth? In any contacts which he and the Foreign Secretary make with President Bhutto, will they make representations to him to reconsider Pakistan's withdrawal from the Commonwealth?

The Prime Minister

I think that the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question is perfectly true. It is a matter for President Bhutto and the Government of Pakistan. Concerning the Commonwealth, it is not just a question of the relationship between Pakistan and ourselves but of the relationship between Pakistan and all the other members of the Commonwealth.