Wednesday, May 18, 2011

US working hard for understanding with Pakistan

The United States is striving to have an understanding with Pakistan on way forward that continues anti-militant progress in the region and “answers a lot of the concerns that both sides have at this point,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

She indicated intensive diplomatic engagement between the two countries in the weeks ahead as they seek to salvage the relationship - seen critical to U.S. success in Afghanistan - and overcome tensions arising in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s discovery in Abbottabad and the May 2 U.S. unilateral action to take al-Qaeda leader out.

“We are working very hard to have an understanding with our counterparts in Pakistan about the best way forward,” Clinton told reporters Tuesday after meeting New Zealand’s foreign minister.

She spoke as Senator John Kerry returned from a visit to Islamabad during which both countries signaled their agreement on building trust and bilateral ties.

In her media interaction at the State Department, the top American diplomat would not comment specifically on any issue between the two countries. But, she stressed “we’re going to be working very hard in the days and weeks ahead to ensure that we have a path forward that continues the progress and answers a lot of the concerns that both sides have at this point.”

Clinton, who is expected to travel to Islamabad in the near future, noted that just in the past few days, she has spoken to senior Pakistani leaders, including President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani, Army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

In the coming days, U.S. Special Representative for the region, Marc Grossman will be in Pakistan “to continue more detailed consultations.”

“And obviously, there are important concerns and many questions that have to be addressed and worked through,” she remarked. At the same time, the diplomat reminded that “in recent years our cooperation between our governments, our militaries, our law enforcement agencies, has increased pressure on al-Qaida and the Taliban, and we want that progress to continue.”

Going forward, she pledged, the Obama Administration is “committed to supporting the people and the Government of Pakistan as they defend their own democracy from the constant attacks by violent extremists.”

Clinton had praise for Senator Kerry’s efforts in Islamabad and said she had been in close touch with him before and during the lawmaker’s trip.

“I appreciate very much his delivering to the Pakistanis, in his capacity as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, a clear perspective on the concerns of the United States Congress.”

Rs3b okayed to set up FATA university, governor briefed Tribal students getting Rs1b in scholarships

Establishment of FATA University with an estimated cost of Rs. 3 billion has been principally approved and the project is at initial stage for which a suitable location is being identified. This was disclosed during a presentation to the Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Barrister Masood Kausar on FATA Education here at the Governor House on Tuesday. It was further revealed that Rs. 2680. 129 million had been allocated for FATA education during the current financial year which is the highest ever outlay for education sector development in FATA.Director Education FATA Fazal Manan gave the presentation in which the Additional Chief Secretary FATA Fazal Karim Khattak, Secretary to Governor Sikander Qayyum and Secretary A&C FATA Abid Majid were also present. The governor was told that under different schemes FATA students were being awarded educational scholarships worth nearly one billion rupees annually.Talking on the occasion the governor said that education development in FATA was the top most priority adding that quality education was the ultimate aim that would never be compromised. The governor emphasized efficient monitoring of the educational process in FATA to ensure its quality and continuity and urged that trend of absenteeism in the educational institutions must be discouraged. The governor stressed the need for promotion of female education in FATA, saying that the female literacy ratio was very low needed to be enhanced. On a point regarding shortage of teaching staff, the governor said that the issue would be raised with the federal govt. He described extra-curricular activities as equally important for student’s physical and mental development and urged that sports and other healthy activities and provision of facilities for such activities must be part of our educational development plan for FATA.On a query regarding closure of certain educational institutions in FATA the governor was told that in certain areas education institutions had been closed due to law and order problem and these institution will be opened when the situation in the respective areas become normal. Regarding closure of community schools, the governor was informed that these schools were closed in December last year as being reportedly, non-functional. However a survey was being carried out through local committees and the feasible and functional schools will be reopened. The total number of educational institutions in FATA is 5620 including 41 colleges and nearly 300 high and higher secondary schools. The male enrolment in these institution is above 0.4 million and that of female is above 0.2 million. 20 Model Schools and 6 Cadet Colleges are also being opened, out of which 10 Model Schools and One cadet College in Wana has since become functional.

Shahbaz Sharif Breaking the begging bowl

The Frontier Post

The Pakistan Muslim League-N government in Punjab has decided not to take foreign loans for the province’s economic restructuring and its Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif told a news conference in Lahore on Monday that his party and the provincial cabinet had chosen an honourable way of living, breaking the begging bowl and depending on own resources to walk with head high among comity of nations. Claiming to be setting example for others to follow, the chief minister of the largest province said the refusal to accept foreign loans and aid might pose a short-term difficulty and some of the development projects might get delayed execution, but the damage can be controlled by way of ‘sacrifices’ of the people, particularly the elite classes. He said trade and not aid would be his government’s commitment that would strive for besides insistence on respectability of mutual benefit with other nations as the only way forward to progress and development of the province and the country. Well said the younger Mian Sahib, this certainly is a resolve worth emulating. This is what the highest degree of self-esteem would think the like. But how a commoner would comprehend as to how and why the decision was taken by the provincial administrator first and then sought to seek consent of the chief of party in power; this is a big political anomaly and leaves many questions to answer.That is not all, there is something else and it falls squarely into the mischief of deceit. The Punjab’s ruling elite has concealed a vital fact from the people that the PML-N government has already obtained from the multilateral donors like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank a hefty amount of no less than Rs32.27 billion out of the donors’ commitment of around Rs40 billion by April 30 for budgetary support and development works during the fiscal 2010-11. This is the height of tenacious delusion of a politician who has been and continues to thrive on doggedness. Breaking the begging bowl has been a slogan that the Sharifs yelled aloud long ago and what we see at the end of all their governments, we see the country plunging further deep down in foreign debts. For example, Nawaz Sharif received one of the highest IMF assistance of $13 billion during his first stint as prime minister. This is a matter of record, and what a record, that the elder Mian Sahib pays an annual tax of Rs5,000 on his entire income coming from the industries in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan that proudly lists him and his family among the 20 richest persons of Pakistan after Mian Mohammad Mansha (assets $2.5 billion), President Asif Ali Zardari (assets $1.8 billion), Sir Anwer Pervaiz, of Bestway group of companies, a Pakistani national in UK (assets $1.5 billion). The Sharifs’ total assets in and out of Pakistan are believed to be worth $1.3 billion and their palatial mansion at Raiwind alone stands at $5 million with its lush green sprawling lawns and orchards and a network of roads and pavements that a person can only see in his or her dreams.

Pakistan and Russia face similar threats: Medvedev

Russia and Pakistan on Thursday pledged to coordinate efforts in the fight against terror as the Kremlin welcomed the Pakistani leader for a key visit after the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Meeting Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari for talks expected to also produce several economic cooperation agreements, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the two countries both suffered from terrorism.

“We are interested in coordinating our efforts on the international arena. It is obvious that our countries are facing absolutely the same threat, I mean international terrorism,” Russian news agencies quoted Medvedev as telling Zardari at the Kremlin.

“We have to do everything so that we could jointly counter this main evil of the 21st century,” Medvedev was quoted as saying.

Zardari, who kicked off his three-day trip to Russia on Wednesday, expressed hope his visit would help deepen ties between the two countries which share a complicated history.

“Our countries are very close neighbours, we are located in the same region and although we do not share borders our hearts beat in unison,” Russian news agencies quoted Zardari as saying.

“The time has come to acknowledge the importance of our countries for each other and the importance of our cooperation.”

Foreign news agencies were not invited to cover the talks.

The Russian trip is Zardari’s first high-profile visit abroad since the Al-Qaeda leader, the world’s most wanted man, was killed in the raid by US forces on a compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan.

The Kremlin hailed the death of bin Laden as a “serious success… in the war against international terrorism” but Pakistan has expressed fury that US forces carried out the raid without informing Islamabad first.

Russia and Pakistan are hoping to pursue joint economic projects and officials from the two countries were also expected to sign agreements on cooperation in agriculture, aviation and energy.

French Socialist Party puts on a united front

Saudi women use Facebook and Twitter to fight for equal rights

A group of women in Saudi Arabia banded together to form a movement seeking to end the country's discriminatory laws particularly male guardianship.
The Saudi Women Revolution, made up mostly of young university-educated women, was started as a Facebook page and a discussion topic on Twitter in February, by Nuha Al Sulaiman.The Facebook page has now more than 3,000 "likes" and several of the women have met in person to discuss their campaign.
According to Al Sulaiman social media like Facebook and Twitter made possible for people who have common ideas to meet.
According to Human Rights Watch, male guardianship means Saudi women need permission from their male kins - husband, father, brother or even son - to work, travel, study, marry, or even access health care.
Saudi Women Revolution recently made their first public act by turning up at election centers to register for the municipal elections in September. As expected the women were turned down. Arab women were never allowed to vote. The women said it doesn't matter that they were rejected but their action was their way to get attention to their campaign. The women also wanted to be allowed to drive which is forbidden in the Kingdom.
"We will do whatever it takes. We will go to the king himself. We will never stop fighting for our rights because it's time for change," Al Sulaiman said.
The Saudi Women Revolution stressed that they are not fighting their government but just want to send the message to end women discrimination.
The campaign has already attracted support from human rights organizations outside the country.
Not all Saudi women want to end male guardianship, however. In 2009, a group of Saudi women launched a campaign called "My Guardian Knows What's Best for Me," which was participated by thousands of supporters.

Obama approval ratings at a 2-year high

United States President Barack Obama's approval rating has hit the highest point in two years at 60 percent. According to an Associated Press-GfK poll taken after US forces killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, more than half of Americans now say he deserves to be re-elected... according to an Associated Press-GfK poll taken after U.S. forces killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.