Friday, August 21, 2009

Pakistan should invest in schools, girls: Clinton

WASHINGTON: Pakistan's fight with extremism would have been in better shape had the United States invested more in the nation's schools and girls and not just its military, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.The United States has pumped more than seven billion dollars into Pakistan's military since the September 11, 2001 attacks, which transformed the nation from Taliban backers into frontline US ally.
In an interview with a US magazine to be published Sunday, Clinton said she had told Pakistan's former military leader Pervez Musharraf that more of the money should be going to education.She recalled a trip to a Pakistani village, where families hesitated to children -- particularly girls -- because the children would need to travel away to the closest school."When I think about the extraordinarily accomplished Pakistanis in the professions, in medicine, in education, I think it is certainly the case that if Pakistan had invested more in the education of children so that poor families would not have sent their boys off to be educated by extremists, it might well have made a difference," Clinton said."And it still can, because that's part of our approach now," she said.US lawmakers have voted to provide 7.5 billion dollars for Pakistan over the next five years -- largely in support for social development including building schools.President Barack Obama's administration has made the fight against Islamic extremism in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan a key foreign policy priority.

Military operation to continue till writ of government fully restored: President Zardari

Military operation to continue till writ of government fully restored: President Zardari
ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has said that the extremists in the country’s northwest have been defeated and dissipated but the military operation will continue till the writ of the government is fully restored.In an interview with the Chinese news agency Xinhua before leaving for China, the President said, “We expect the military operation to continue till the writ of the Government has been fully restored. The internally displaced people are being resettled,” he said answering a question by Xinhua.

“Democracy is always a format of dialogue. But no body would be allowed to take law in their hands and extremism would not be tolerated,” he said, adding “now all the Pakistanis are of the same opinion that they would not tolerate extremism. And the tolerance message which the political forces of the day and the people of Pakistan want is to cohabit and live with each other in harmony and peace.”
President Zardari said that the social and administrative infrastructure has been restored and the normalcy is returning to the areas in Swat, Malakand and Buner in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province.

“The process of development has been initiated. The economic activity is picking up gradually,” he said, adding that the schools and hospitals have started functioning in the areas and utilities have been restored.

However, he said, the army will continue to remain in the area to assist the civil authorities and to eliminate the pockets of resistance in remote areas.

The President also said that Pakistan’s leadership, the security institutions and people are firmly resolved to fight militancy and eliminate extremism from all parts of the country.

“It is a fight for the survival and we must win it,” he said.

Talking about the country’s economy, Zardari said that it had significantly lost growth momentum and the real GDP grew by modest two percent in 2008-09 on the back of strong performance of the agriculture sector.

But he said that this modest growth seems to be satisfactory when viewed in the backdrop that the domestic environment is affected by the intensification of war on terror and volatile security situation while external environment is affected by the deepening of the global financial crisis which penetrated into domestic economy through the route of substantial decline in Pakistan’s exports and a visible slowdown in foreign direct inflows.

He pledged that the focus of the government policies is to revive economic growth in a stable environment.

Talking about his vision of Pakistan, Zardari said, “I feel Pakistan has a great future. We have all the fundamentals to become much a larger economy than we are today, which would translate into betterment of our people, our growth can be much more. So my vision is to take Pakistan to the same level as your (China’s) growth.”

About the presidential elections in Afghanistan and the two neighbours’ cooperation in war on terror, President Zardari said that it is the choice of the Afghan people as far as who is going to be the new president.

“Pakistan and Afghanistan are already cooperating on war on terror. We have many bilateral meetings, many trilateral meetings with the Afghan government,” he said.

Zardari said that there is much more trust between Pakistan and Afghanistan with setting up of special centers on the border.

“So if we can manage to overcome our difficulties and that in turn will automatically help Afghanistan, give them the advantage of getting over their difficulties,” he said.

About China’s economic progress, President Zardari said that China’s economic and social prosperity will contribute to the international peace and prosperity.

The President wished Pakistan’s northern neighboring state all the success in economic and social fields.

On bilateral relations, Zardari said Pakistan and China enjoy excellent relations which have evolved into a multi-faceted, strategic cooperative partnership.

“China is Pakistan’s all-weather and time-tested friend. We greatly value our cherished friendship and have complete trust on all bilateral, regional and global issues,” he said.

In a message to the Chinese nation which will mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of their country on October 1, the President said, “The people of Pakistan are proud of you and proud of your achievements. Being an example in the region to all the nations which have been brought to turmoil, that inspires all of us.”

Zardari said, “We have seen a growth of double digit since last 20 years in China, and that is transcended into economic growth of the individual. Today every Chinese is feeling the advantage and benefiting from the progress that China has made.”

On his fourth visit to China, Zardari said, “The reason that I keep going to China is to learn and educate myself, then transfer what I can experience and see, and then translate that success to Pakistan and accordingly hope to do better for my nation.”

On measures taken by the Chinese government to deal with the riots in Urumuqi in early July, President Zardari said Pakistan supports China’s position on all issues.

“We are glad that the situation in Urumuqi has been brought under control. We believe that China’s policy of social harmony and development is producing great results for all Chinese people,” he said.

He said the economic development in China is unprecedented and all ethnic groups in China would benefit from it.

Sri Lanka to train Pakistani army

Sri Lanka's army has said it will be happy to give training to members of the Pakistani military.It says Islamabad has requested the training because of the country's success in defeating the Tamil Tigers.In May, the government announced the end to a decades-long war with the rebel group.The army's new commander told the BBC that Pakistan had already asked if it could send its military cadets to train in counter-insurgency operations."We'll give a favourable response," Lt Gen Jagath Jayasuriya said of the request.He said the Sri Lankan military envisaged specialist courses lasting up to six weeks, directed towards small groups from interested armies.Lt Gen Jayasuriya said there was external interest in how the military had defeated the rebel group in practical terms.The army now wished to construct a written military doctrine in English.
Mutual support
He said Sri Lanka had offered similar training, through diplomatic channels, to other countries including the United States, India, Bangladesh and The Philippines.
He dismissed reports that the Pakistanis might receive military training in newly recaptured parts of northern Sri Lanka, saying it would be more likely in the south-east.But he did say new permanent military bases would be set up in those northern areas including the rebels' former headquarters, Kilinochchi.
Sri Lanka and Pakistan have long enjoyed warm relations.
In late May, Pakistan - like India, China and Russia - helped Colombo defeat a motion at the UN which would have criticised both the government and the rebels for allegedly violating humanitarian law during the war.But India, which is highly influential here, might well be uncomfortable at this news of the Pakistanis' interest in being trained.

Martha's Vineyard abuzz about the Obamas

MARTHA'S VINEYARD, Mass. — Souvenir shops sell "Summer White House 2009" T-shirts.
The Offshore Ale Co. has a new "Presidenti Ale" brew.

President Obama's scheduled arrival Sunday for his first week-long vacation since taking office has this island near Cape Cod in a dither. Some worry about traffic, but business owners hope the visit will draw tourists in a year that has been slower than usual.

READ MORE: Celebrities fit right in on Martha's Vineyard
"People are excited about this president and that he's coming in his first year," says Nancy Gardella, executive director of the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce. The elite retreat favored by Democrats has hosted presidents before, notably Bill Clinton (a return visitor since 1993). Obama has vacationed here before.

He is due to stay with his family at Blue Heron Farm, a secluded estate with tennis court, pool, golf tee and basketball court. Similar properties rent for $30,000 and up a week.

The pricey rental in hard times has drawn criticism. "The president is paying for his family's vacation," deputy press secretary Bill Burton says.

Obama has addressed the question. "Do I think every single day about the hardships that people are going through? Absolutely," he said in an interview with Katie Couric. "Do I think the American people think that because of those hardships I shouldn't spend some quality time with my daughters? I don't think that's what the American people think."

Supporters of the getaway include Hugh Taylor, owner of the Vineyard's The Outermost Inn.

Says Taylor, brother of singer James Taylor: "They should just take a walk on the beach, get squirted in the face by a clam, watch an osprey. What I would like to see (Obama) do is just enjoy this place with his children."

Australia tries to heal ties with China

Australia insisted yesterday that its ambassador to China didn't rush home a day earlier for crisis-management consultations amid soured bilateral ties between the two major regional trading partners.

Putonghua-speaking Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Ambassador Geoff Raby often returns from Beijing this time of year, downplaying the trip's significance.

But he conceded to reporters in Canberra that, "Obviously, it's a good time to take stock of the relationship and how we move forward."

Raby canceled engagements in Beijing to return to Canberra yesterday for "emergency meetings," the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported.

"He hasn't been rushed back to Canberra; he comes back on a regular basis," Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told ABC Radio yesterday, adding that it was "a very good time" for Raby to return.

Jill Collins, counselor for public affairs and culture at the Australian embassy in China, told the Global Times that the envoy "is away from Beijing at the moment," declining to comment further on his agenda.

The embassy does not have a practice of commenting on details of the ambassador's schedule, Collins noted.

Bilateral relations appear to have chilled following the arrest of Australian mining giant Rio Tinto's Shanghai executive, Stern Hu, an Australian passport-holder, for his alleged involvement in commercial bribery. Also not helping ties was Canberra's decision to allow a visit by the US-based Uygur exile Rebiya Kadeer. The Chinese government has accused Kadeer of masterminding the July 5 riot in Urumqi that caused almost 200 deaths.
Beijing this week reportedly canceled a planned September visit to Australia by Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei in response to Canberra's decision to issue Kadeer a visa.

The Foreign Ministry wasn't available to comment on the issue yesterday.

Negotiations between Chinese steel mills and the world’s giant miners, including Australia's BHB Billiton, Rio Tinto and Brazil's Vale, have long exceeded their annual June 30 deadline for iron ore price-setting.

But there has been good news, as PetroChina this week signed a $41.3 billion deal with Exxon Mobil to purchase liquefied natural gas mined Down Under, Bloomberg said.

Australian Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson hailed the agreement as a "landmark in our relationship with China."

Han Feng, deputy director of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times, "The Rio Tinto case and iron ore price talks are mainly examples of conflicts of commercial interest, and they won’t influence Sino-Australian relations by a large margin."

Trade ties between China and Australia are mainly characterized by large energy deals, he said, adding that they are still in need of long-term and stable trust to improve political ties.

"The row … is not likely to affect the economic exchange of both countries," Zhang Liangui, a professor of international political strategy at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, told the Global Times.

"Both countries are just making gestures, without any substantial gain or loss," Zhang said.

Zhang said that some Western countries see Kadeer as leverage to contain China, which is enjoying rapid development.

"It does no good for China to quarrel with Western countries over and again," Zhang said. "China must learn how to open dialogues with foreign countries; nationalism will only cause confrontations."

"Western nations are cautious about China's rapid growth and try to make trouble for China," Zhang said. "And the Chinese should also learn to talk with other countries to express our fundamental interests."

Karzai, Abdullah Campaigns Each Claim Victory in Afghanistan

Campaign teams for the two leading Afghan presidential candidates are both claiming victory in the country's second-ever presidential election. Incumbent President Hamid Karzai's campaign chief Deen Mohammad said that initial results show Mr. Karzai with a substantial lead and that a run-off vote will not be necessary.But a spokesman for former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah - considered by observers to be Mr. Karzai's closest challenger - dismissed the claim and said Abdullah had a definitive edge in the vote count..
Afghanistan's Independent Election Committee (IEC) said all the presidential ballots had been counted but refused to confirm either claim, urging the candidates to wait for the release of official results.Millions of Afghans braved the threat of Taliban attacks to vote Thursday. Violence in Kabul, Kandahar, and other major cities killed at least 26 people. IEC Deputy Chief Zekria Barakzai said Friday that 40 to 50 percent of eligible Afghan voters went to the polls.The turnout is markedly lower than the 70 percent turnout during country's first democratic election in 2004. Observers said some voters appeared to have been scared away, especially in the southern regions where the Taliban has its stronghold. There are concerns low voter turnout will damage the election's credibility and undermine support for the winner. And election authorities say they are investigating reports of ballot-stuffing and faulty voting equipment. Still, they are calling the election a success. IEC Deputy Chief Barakzai said election officials in each of the country's provinces had finished counting votes in the presidential election and that those results were being sent to the capital. He said ballots for the provincial elections were still being counted.Mr. Karzai was considered the frontrunner in a field of more than 30 presidential candidates, although his once-comfortable lead shrank as election day neared.