Sunday, January 18, 2009

PM’s Swiss visit: a family affair or a junket

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will embark on an official trip to Switzerland on January 27, a five-day junket that looks more like a taxpayer-funded family vacation at a time the country and most of the world economies are facing a deep recession.

The justification for the visit essentially stems from the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting of global business and political leaders in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos. The five-day event, opening on January 28, will be attended by no more than eight or 10 heads of state and government.

Scheduled to leave for Switzerland on January 27, Gilani will return home on January 31. He will be travelling on a commercial PIA flight, making a ‘technical stopover’ in London, where two of his sons are studying.

The Prime Minister House sources told The News on Sunday that Gilani was to be accompanied by the Punjab governor and his wife according to the initial plan. But the governor has now dropped out. Mrs Gilani would stay in Zurich along with her children to enjoy shopping as well as sight-seeing, the sources revealed.

While the sources maintained the entourage would comprise around 50 people, PM’s Press Secretary Imran Gardezi, when contacted by The News, put the number at 26. He, however, remained non-committal on the number of family members accompanying the prime minister, saying the programme was still evolving.

Also part of the high-profile junket, from which ostensibly nothing substantive can result, will be five federal cabinet members, including Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim and ministers for finance, privatisation and investment. From the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there will be two officials — the foreign secretary and an additional foreign secretary — apart from a protocol officer. Since this is not a bilateral visit, the host government will not be extending any hospitality other than a car for Gilani.

Hence, all costs will be borne by the Pakistani taxpayers and that too at a time when the prime minister himself has been urging the ‘Friends of Pakistan’ to assist his country in overcoming its financial crisis. When this question was put to Gardezi, there was no firm word from him and he merely hazarded a guess that hospitality might be extended to three or four members of the delegation.

But Gardezi, who disagreed with the view that the prime minister’s visit would be a junket at the taxpayers’ expense, asserted that the event was an important multilateral forum and Pakistan’s participation would enhance its international image.

When specifically asked what would be achieved from the trip, Gardezi replied that there would be a Pakistan-specific session at Davos and the prime minister would address an influential audience there.

“Pakistan will be able to highlight its position on key issues and challenges confronting the country. Also, the forum will provide (him) an opportunity to meet many world leaders and to interact with business leaders, NGO representatives and international media,” he said.

There has been growing criticism of Gilani’s high-cost foreign visits. Last month, the issue also echoed in the National Assembly, where Bushra Gohar sought details of the prime minister’s official visits abroad. The foreign minister told the House that from March to August 2008, the prime minister had visited Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, UK, US and Sri Lanka, which had cost the national exchequer Rs 78.7 million.

While Pakistan got a US $7.6 billion financial bailout from the IMF last year, officials at the Finance Ministry said it would require another $4 billion by June 2009. For the supposedly cash-starved government, it promises no concrete gains, according to watchers of the WEF.

Diplomats claim no important bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the forum have been confirmed so far. Reportedly, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will not be going to Davos. So, this puts an end to speculation and media hype about a crucial ice-breaking meeting between the leaders of the two estranged South Asian nations.

There are indications Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who will be present at the forum, will exploit the opportunity to malign Pakistan for the Mumbai attacks.

Swat militants extending influence...IGNORANT MULLAHS AND TALIBAN

Swat militants extending influence

PESHAWAR: Emboldened by their unchallenged activities in the troubled Swat valley, Maulana Fazlullah-led militants have started extending their sphere of influence and activities to the hitherto peaceful districts bordering the militancy-plagued valley, setting the alarm bells ringing for the already beleaguered NWFP government.

The militants, after succeeding in terrorising the people of Matta, Kabal and Khwazakhela into submission, unleashed shooting and beheading spree to the relatively calm district headquarters, Mingora, and established their writ partially.

In a couple of weeks, about 26 persons were either shot dead or slaughtered and their bodies hung from trees and pole at city squares, particularly the Grain-turned-Green Square. The unchecked militant activities left the people of the city petrified and dumbfounded.

“One cannot dare to talk even to one’s family members inside the house due to fear of militants’ reprisal,” a frightened resident said when asked to comment. “Walls have also ears,” he said, fearing to speak even being alone.

Tragically, the valley of gleeful people and best orators, to summarise fear from the militants, has turned into the abode of dumb people where no one would talk about militants. Let alone dwellers, government official, MPA and minister would not speak on the escalating militancy, as all dissenting voices are stifled then there. No right to expression at all, perhaps no right to live if one dares to disagree. Seeking anonymity is demand of the day.

Turning to the upper parts of Swat, the militants marched on Madyan. The valley’s Walibagh, the house of late Khan Abdul Wali Khan in Chakri where he would stay during summers, was blown up on Friday to punish the Awami National Party for the Swat operation.

They also appeared in Barikot, a militants-free tehsil of the valley, and checked vehicles on main Swat-Peshawar Road. A resident from Shalbandai told The News that the militants had erected blockade at Karakar Pass and checked vehicle, taking away all those hailing from Shalbandai.

A suicide bomber sent by the Swat militants mowed down 42 people at a polling station in Shalbandai on December 28 for shooting down six militants in August last year. They are bent upon extending their scope of operation to Buner, a bid robustly opposed by the people.

The militants have threatened more deadly attacks against the people for standing up to them, something that terrified the people after Shalbandai suicide blast. Little was done to protect and encourage the people of Buner, allowing militants to exert their writ to hitherto peaceful district.

In Batkhela, the agency headquarters of Malakand Agency, the militants have not only fixed fee for doctors but are also trying to entrench themselves. Owing to militants’ action, doctors reduced fee as suggested by the militants that would buoy up militants to impose their will on the people, as people cannot resist after dwindling writ of the government.

The town, a business hub of the Malakand division, was rocked with four bomb blasts on the night between Thursday and Friday, three of them near Levies Post. At times, they bomb audio and video shops in Batkhela, besides hurling threats at people through their FM Radio.

Taking cue from Batkhela militants, militants commander for Lower and Upper Dir, Hafizullah, who is closely associated with the Swat militants, issued a list of fee for doctors and warned of action in case their dictate was ignored.

Shangla is a district, which was overrun by the militants in 2007 and certain towns were occupied. Though their influence has tapered off, it has not completely ended in Shangla. The militants are attempting to get hold of all neighbouring districts-Buner, Dir Upper, Dir Lower, Shangla and Malakand Agency. Before it is too late, the government needs to act to secure these districts from falling to Taliban.

Afghanistan held back by weak leadership: NATO

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - NATO's top official took issue on Sunday with Afghanistan's sluggish forward progress, placing blame more on the country's weak leadership than on the Taliban-led insurgency.

"Afghan leadership is not some distant aspiration -- it's something that we need as soon as possible and on which we must insist," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer wrote in an opinion piece published in Sunday's Washington Post.

Seven years ago the United States sent troops to Afghanistan in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks by al Qaeda, toppling the leading Taliban group that had been sheltering al Qaeda's leaders.

President-elect Barack Obama has committed to sending more U.S. forces to Afghanistan to tackle insurgent violence that has risen in recent years.

De Hoop Scheffer said the basic problem in Afghanistan is not too much Taliban but the country has too little central control. The longer it takes to see progress, he said, the longer the military operation remains in place at a "real cost in lives."

"But we have paid enough, in blood and treasure, to demand that the Afghan government take more concrete and vigorous action to root out corruption and increase efficiency, even where that means difficult political choices," Scheffer said.

The United States currently has about 33,000 troops in Afghanistan and plans to add at least another 13,000 forces by summer, according to Pentagon officials.

De Hoop Scheffer wrote that while NATO is obliged to keep ramping up the military operation, force alone cannot solve Afghanistan's problems.

However, NATO also needs to have a more cohesive approach, De Hoop Scheffer said, adding that the operations are still too much of a patchwork.

"We should have more common approaches to our efforts, including fewer geographic restrictions on where forces can go in support of each other," De Hoop Scheffer wrote.

De Hoop Scheffer said leaders from the NATO member country's will meet in France and Germany to mark the 60th anniversary of its founding, saying the meeting presents "an opportunity for alliance leaders to discuss the way forward."

‘Chitral to have marble handicraft, mining & processing unit

PESHAWAR: To include women in the main pool of progress, two mega projects of Marble Handicraft Training Centre and Marble Mining and Processing Unit would be initiated soon, tehsil nazim Sartaj Ahmad Khan told reporters on Sunday.
The projects would certainly improve the life standard of Chitrali people particularly womenfolk, Sartaj Ahmad Khan opined.
He said that the first mega project of Marble Handicraft Training Centre will be opened at Chitral to promote mosaic and handicraft sector for enhancing life standard of women and providing opportunities of earning livelihood in an honourable way.
The marble handicraft training centre would be maintained by a management board for the institute comprising representatives of Small & Medium Enterprise Development Authority (SMEDA) and All Pakistan Marble Industries Association (APMIA), he disclosed.
He said that this project would be completed within 12 months as it is funded by PSDP/ADP if not included in current five year plan.
Total cost of the project is Rs6.49 million.
Main objectives of the project are to support local community in sustainable livelihood by creating economic activity especially by womenfolk of Chitral.
To develop cluster for marble handicraft manufacturing, including developing backward and forward linkages for SMEs in the marble handicrafts manufacturing and marketing as well as to encourage local people in initiating enterprises thus creating employment opportunities, he added.
NWFP produce 87 per cent marble, 1 per cent granite 12 per cent slate as overall 82 per cent product of the country while Frontier has 158 million tons of marble reserves.
A study was conducted by an NGO which indicated that 414 million tons of marketable granite reserves are available here in Northern Areas.
Currently, he said, 148 processing unit work in NWFP while still there will be more potential as well.
He said latest machineries would be purchased for this purpose.
This centre will contribute in economics growth of the region and will be soon self-sustaining after a year of its operation, he remarked.
Training will be provided to 500 people in five years at least 30 enterprises will be established here during this period.
He said that employment of 2,000 people are expected to be associated directly with the project while more chances are available for other labours as 12 staffers would be engaged in the centre.
Another mega project of Marble Mining & Processing Unit (MM&PU) would be opened here with total cost of Rs275 million which is a joint venture of local and foreign investors, Sartaj added.
The project will be completed in 2 years as machinery would be borne by foreign investor whereas mine will be taken by local investors on equality basis of 40 per cent of total investment, he maintained.
He said that main objectives of this project are the same as of previous project with addition to minimise the ratio of wastage of marble in mining and processing besides convince the industry to adopt scientific mining techniques, use of mining machinery and ensure the machinery available on market price.
To develop an international level model project of marble mining & processing, more efforts would be needed, Sartaj further added.
He said that benefits of the projects were to increase the level of recovery of dimensional stone blocks from current 27 per cent to more than 50 per cent will also lead the greater sale of raw product in the international market resulting to increase profitability for local miners as well as processors.

Israel accused of war crimes over 12-hour assault on Gaza village.....Destruction in Gaza

Israel stands accused of perpetrating a series of war crimes during a sustained 12-hour assault on a village in southern Gaza last week in which 14 people died.

In testimony collected from residents of the village of Khuza'a by the Observer, it is claimed that Israeli soldiers entering the village:

• attempted to bulldoze houses with civilians inside;

• killed civilians trying to escape under the protection of white flags;

• opened fire on an ambulance attempting to reach the wounded;

• used indiscriminate force in a civilian area and fired white phosphorus shells.

If the allegations are upheld, all the incidents would constitute breaches of the Geneva conventions.

The denunciations over what happened in Khuza'a follow repeated claims of possible human rights violations from the Red Cross, the UN and human rights organisations.

The Israeli army announced yesterday that it was investigating "at the highest level" five other attacks against civilians in Gaza, involving two UN facilities and a hospital. It added that in all cases initial investigations suggested soldiers were responding to fire. "These claims of war crimes are not supported by the slightest piece of evidence," said Yigal Palmor, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman.

Concern over what occurred in the village of Khuza'a in the early hours of Tuesday was first raised by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem. Although an Israeli military spokesman said he had "no information that this alleged incident took place", witness statements collected by the Observer are consistent and match testimony gathered by B'Tselem.

There is also strong visible evidence that Khuza'a came under a sustained attack from tanks and bulldozers that smashed some buildings to pieces.

Pictures taken by photographer Bruno Stevens in the aftermath show heavy damage - and still burning phosphorus. "What I can tell you is that many, many houses were shelled and that they used white phosphorus," said Stevens yesterday, one of the first western journalists to get into Gaza. "It appears to have been indiscriminate." Stevens added that homes near the village that had not been hit by shell fire had been set on fire.

The village of Khuza'a is around 500 metres from the border with Israel. According to B'Tselem, its field researcher in Gaza was contacted last Tuesday by resident Munir Shafik al-Najar, who said that Israeli bulldozers had begun destroying homes at 2.30am.

When Rawhiya al-Najar, aged 50, stepped out of her house waving a white flag, so that the rest of the family could leave the house, she was allegedly shot by Israeli soldiers nearby.

The second alleged incident was on Tuesday afternoon, when Israeli troops ordered 30 residents to leave their homes and walk to a school in the village centre. After travelling 20 metres, troops fired on the group, allegedly killing three.

Further detailed accounts of what occurred were supplied in interviews given to a Palestinian researcher who has been working for the Observer, following the decision by Israel to ban foreign media from the Gaza Strip. Iman al-Najar, 29, said she watched as bulldozers started to destroy neighbours' homes and saw terrified villagers flee from their houses as masonry collapsed.

"By 6am the tanks and bulldozers had reached our house," Iman recalled. "We went on the roofs and tried to show we were civilians with white flags. Everyone was carrying a white flag. We told them we are civilians. We don't have any weapons. The soldiers started to destroy the houses even if the people were in them." Describing the death of Rawhiya, Iman says they were ordered by Israeli soldiers to move to the centre of the town. As they did, Israeli troops opened fire. Rawhiya was at the front of the group, says Iman.

Marwan Abu Raeda, 40, a paramedic working for the Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, said: "At 8am we received a phone call from Khuza'a. They told us about the injured woman. I went immediately. I was 60 or 70 metres away from the injured woman when the Israeli forces started to shoot at me." As he drove into another street, he came under fire again. Twelve hours later, when Rawhiya was finally reached, she was dead.

Iman said she ended up in an area of rubble where a large group of people had sought cover in a deep hole among the debris of demolished houses. It is then, she says, that bulldozers began to push the rubble from each side. "They wanted to bury us alive," she said.

Obama at concert: The dream of our founders will live on

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Inauguration revelry began Sunday afternoon as thousands of people packed the National Mall in Washington for a free concert featuring big stars.
President-elect Barack Obama addressed a roaring crowd after 90 minutes of high-energy acts such as U2, Mary J. Blige, Usher and Beyonce."Welcome to this celebration of American renewal," he said."In the course of our history, only a handful of generations have been asked to confront challenges as serious as the ones we face right now.""I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure," Obama said. "That it will prevail; that the dream of our founders will live on in our time."Obama spent the morning visiting Arlington National Cemetery and attending church before heading to the "We are One: Opening Inaugural Celebration" at the Lincoln Memorial. It was nothing but good vibes -- a brief respite for an incoming president who will face huge problems after he takes office Tuesday.
Bruce Springsteen opened the concert with his song "The Rising," singing, "How far I've gone/How high I've climbed/On my back's a 60 pound stone/On my shoulder a half mile line."Along the National Mall, between the Capitol and the Washington Monument, people watched the concert on massive screens and sang along with "America the Beautiful" and "This Land is Your Land."During U2's performance of "Pride (In the Name of Love)," a tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., frontman Bono referenced the civil rights leader's "I Have a Dream" speech, saying that it was also, "an Irish dream, a European dream, and African dream, an Israeli dream, and a Palestinian dream."Obama mentioned the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, and also referred to King's "I Have a Dream" speech, which took place in the same spot where he was standing."Directly in front of us is a pool that still reflects the dream of a King and the glory of a people who marched and bled so that their children might be judged by their character's content," he said.Obama said what gives him "the greatest hope of all is not the stone and marble that surrounds us, but what fills the spaces in between. It is you -- Americans of every race and region and station who came here because you believe in what this country can be and because you want to help us get there."Vice President-elect Joe Biden also spoke, pointing to those "marble domes" and towers of Washington surrounding the crowd which represent the "majesty of a great nation -- all built stone by stone by American men and women."
Work is about "dignity" and "respect," he said, praising the ethic of hard-working Americans. "We owe them the chance to go to work each day knowing they have the thanks of a grateful nation."Comedians and actors such as Steve Carell and Jamie Foxx brought some comic levity to the inauguration of a president who will face some serious problems in just a few days.Foxx, always the showman, urged "Chi-town" to "stand up!"ined by his wife Michelle and their children, the President-elect stood up, laughing and clapping.Foxx did an impression of Obama's speech election night, as Obama laughed.Stevie Wonder belted out "Higher Ground" with Shakira and Usher. Herbie Hancock backed Sheryl Crow and will i. am. as they sang Bob Marley's "One Love."
Garth Brooks sang the 1971 folk rock classic "American Pie" followed by a choir-backed version of "We shall be free." Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks, Jack Black and Rosario Dawson also addressed the crowd.The celebration caps Obama's shortened version of President Abraham Lincoln's 1861 rail trip to Washington. Obama will be inaugurated as the 44th president in Washington on Tuesday.A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Sunday morning suggests most Americans see Obama's inauguration as a chance for a divided America to unify.
"You know the country is in the middle of a honeymoon when 6 in 10 Republicans have a positive view of Obama," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
CNN's John King interviewed Obama this week in Ohio. King noted that Obama will take the oath of office on the steps of a Capitol built on the backs of slaves and live in a house built on the backs of slaves.
"This has to be incredibly overwhelming," King said. Obama replied, "The notion that I will be standing there and sworn in as the 44th president, I think, is something that hopefully our children take for granted. But our grandparents are still stung by it and it's a remarkable moment."

Musharraf: ‘Pakistan is Not a Perpetrator of Terrorism’

At a recent Stanford University appearance, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf adamantly defended his country, asserting that Pakistan is in fact "a victim" of terrorism and that the roots of terrorism lie in illiteracy and poverty. Photo by Som Sharma. Viji Sundaram is an editor with New America Media.

PALO ALTO, Calif. – Sounding every inch like a military general, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf lambasted those who accuse his country as “a perpetrator of terrorism.” He asserted that Pakistan is in fact “a victim” of terrorism.

“Pakistan faces terrorism with all its facets,” the 65-year-old asserted before a packed gathering at Stanford University’s Memorial Auditorium on Jan. 16. “It is wrong to think of it as a perpetrator. Events since 1979 (the year the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan) have made it that way.”

But he noted that stamping out terrorism in Pakistan “is absolutely critical if we are to win the global war on terrorism.”

Musharraf resigned as president in August 18 last year in order to avoid charges of impeachment that were to be leveled against him by parliament later that week.

He ruled Pakistan since he seized power in a bloodless military coup in 1999, ousting the democratically elected Prime Minister Navaz Sharif. Two years later, he appointed himself president.

A few months before he resigned, Musharraf imposed emergency rule and fired nearly 60 judges, including Pakistan’s chief justice, to keep them from overturning his re-election as president.

Musharraf’s rule of Pakistan was marked by civil unrest and an uneasy alliance with the United States. He has survived more than one attempt on his life.

In his hour-long speech at Stanford, Musharraf reiterated over and over again that Pakistan has been given short shrift by the West. He said that though Pakistan and Afghanistan played a key role in ending the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1989, it was Europe that gathered the spoils.

“What did Pakistan and Afghanistan, the main contributors of the victory, get?” he asked rhetorically. “Nothing. Everyone abandoned us and said, ‘You are on your own.’ ”

Musharaff said he himself has been trying to eradicate terrorism from Pakistan even before 9/11, when the United States sought his help to capture Al Queda operatives and their leader, Osama bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

But the fight against terrorism in Pakistan is made complex by the fact that terrorism shows itself in that country in three different ways, he said: One, as terrorism itself. Another, as the militant Taliban; and the third as “Talibinazation,” which Musharraf defined as “the Taliban spreading their views into the frontiers of Pakistan.”

“With the passage of time, there’s a link between all of them,” Musharraf asserted.

He defended Pakistan’s war on terrorism, and said no other country in the world has managed to “eliminate 700 al-Queda operatives, including 45 key figures.”

That being the case, he said, for the United States to say that Pakistan has done very little with the $10 billion in U.S. aid is unreasonable, just as it is to suggest that the money has been misused.

“A trillion dollars has been spent on Iraq,” Musharraf said. “The $10 billion is a pittance for a country that has taken a lead role in fighting terrorism.

“We are together on strategy, but don’t dictate to us how it has to be done in our country,” Musharraf said, his voice rising. “It’s in the interest of Pakistan, whose people are tired of suicide bombers, to end terrorism. We’re not doing it for you.”

He said unless the world takes a “holistic approach” to its war on terrorism, nothing much would come of it. Curbing terrorism in the remote border region with Afghanistan will not happen with military might alone, he said.

He likened terrorists to a tree, with terrorist organizations being its branches.

“Branches and leaves will keep growing unless we uproot the tree,” Musharraf said.

The roots of terrorism, he said, lie in illiteracy, poverty and not being assimilated into society, all three phenomena faced by many Muslim youth globally.

Musharraf acknowledged that many of the terrorist attacks “unfortunately” had Muslim involvement mostly because the world has been removing the leaves and branches and not taken out the root.

“The anger and frustration in Muslim youth is exploited by those who have a political agenda,” Musharraf asserted. “They indoctrinate them for terrorism,” misrepresenting the teachings of Islam.

And Musharraf warned: “Identifying terrorism with Islam is extremely dangerous to the cause of fighting terrorism.”

Musharraf acknowledged that the terrorists who brought down the World Trade Center in 2001 and were behind the 2004 Madrid train bombings and the 2005 London subway blasts were neither poor nor illiterate. Those were done out of a “sense of powerlessness arising from unresolved disputes,” he said.

Musharraf said he believes that unless political disputes are resolved, especially the important ones like those involving Palestine and Kashmir, terrorism will never end.

When asked how that could be done, Musharraf said that “forces” from the European Union, which has more credibility than the United States, should “come into play.”

“A Palestinian state,” he said, to applause, “has to be created.”

As for Kashmir, over which India and Pakistan have fought three wars and several minor disputes, Musharraf said there has to be “a give-and-take on both sides.”

He said he had moved the peace process along while he ruled Pakistan, first with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and later with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“Fleeting opportunities did come our way,” but neither country took advantage of them, he said, declining to elaborate.

It was not until someone from the audience questioned him about it did Musharraf even talk about the recent Mumbai attacks, which have further strained relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.

Investigations by both India and the United States point to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group, being behind the attacks.

“If the Lashkar-e-Taiba are involved, they must be punished,” Musharraf said in response. “But at the same time, aspersions must not be cast on the Pakistani government.”

Musharraf’s talk, organized by several sponsors, including the Stanford in Government and the ASSU Speakers Bureau, is his second in a national speaking tour.

Soldier killed in Pakistan blast

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A Pakistani soldier was killed and another wounded Sunday afternoon when an explosive device was detonated beneath a military convoy in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province Sunday afternoon, a Pakistani military official told CNN.Militants and Pakistani soldiers exchanged fire after the explosion, the official said.Search operations were underway to locate suspected militants, he added.The Swat Valley, where the attack occurred, was once among Pakistan's biggest tourist destinations.But in recent months, militants have unleashed a wave of attacks across the region that have claimed hundreds of lives, many of them security personnel.

Int’l support to facilitate Afghan refugees sought.

PESHAWAR: NWFP Minister for Law, Human Rights and Parliamentary Affairs Barrister Arshad Abdullah Sunday said that Pakistan particularly NWFP had been a host of afghan refugees for the last 30 years which not only had a negative impact on our economy but also ruined infrastructure as well. He, in this connection appealed the International community to extend all out support in order to share burden the country was bearing despite financial crunch. This, he said, while attending the concluding session of a workshop on "International Protection of Refugees" organized by UNHCR here. Attending by Civil Judges and junior judiciary members, the purpose of this orientation workshop was to briefed the judiciary about the status of refugees, their categorization viz-a-viz to differentiate between the Afghan having valid registration and de-registered Afghans thus to protect the genuine refugees. Arshad Abdullah said that Pakistan being a responsible member of International Community set an example to give refuge to a largest number of population on its soil, it is now the responsibility of International Community to take step for their repatriation, as well as extend all out support to Pakistan. Law Minister appreciated the role of UNHCR in this regard. He also eulogized the support of UNHCR in helping the internally displaced persons (IDPs). Earlier, regional head of UNHCR Peshawar Muhammad Adar highlighted the objectives of the workshop and hailed the role of Pakistan in helping afghan refugees and supporting UNHCR for their safe repatriation. It merits a mention here that UNHCR authorities should shared with participants the contents of MoU signed between Pakistan and UNHCR for the registration of legal repatriation of Afghans, explaining UNHCR's mandate, status of Afghans in Pakistan. The participants were told that Foreign Act is not applicable to afghan having valid registration cards issued by NADRA and only those would face the punishment, who were de-registered or having no valid documents for their stay in Pakistan.