Saturday, July 7, 2012

Drones serving the purpose

Defending CIA drone attacks in the Tribal Areas, US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter on Saturday said the attacks helped eliminate terrorists, the common enemy of US and Pakistan. Talking to reporters during a farewell visit to Balochistan, Munter said the US was committed to obliterate the safe sanctuaries of militants who attacked both Pakistanis and Afghan people. US drones fired at least 10 missiles in North Waziristan Agency on Friday night, killing at least 21 people a couple of days after the NATO supplies were resumed. Munter said the drones targeted militants having safe havens in Pakistani areas near the Afghan border. However, independent sources say civilians are often killed in US attacks, which in returns prove counterproductive and provide the militants with the opportunity to recruit locals. US reiterated that Washington was concerned over Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline deal. Munter said hat Pakistan conveyed a “positive” message by resuming NATO supplies. Munter also said Washington was concerned over Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline deal.

ANP backs Contempt of Court Bill

Haji Adeel said ANP backs Contempt of Court Bill but it has reservations over Dual Nationality Bill. Talking to Dunya News in Islamabad, ANP senior vice-president Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel said the objective of the Contempt of Court Bill is giving right to appeal to any affected person. He said if High Court or any other court convict a person in contempt of court, he should be given right to appeal. Haji Adeel said that the Contempt of Court Bill would be passed with a simple majority. He said the ANP would not support legislation regarding dual nationality in the parliament for the posts of president, prime minister, governors and chief ministers, federal ministers and other key offices in the armed forces. “For these important positions, one must have pure Pakistani nationality,” he stressed. Haji Adeel said the coalition government does not enjoy the two-third majority to pass the Dual Nationality Bill.

Libyans vote for new future in landmark election

By Jomana Karadsheh and Moni Basu, CNN
in an act of severance with the legacy of Moammar Gadhafi, Libyans went to the polls Saturday to elect a national assembly. The landmark vote was marred in places by disruptions that prompted polling centers to close but the overall turnout was greater than expected. The last time Libya held an election was almost half a century ago and for many people, the act of casting a ballot was novel after four decades of autocratic, one-man rule. The excitement was palpable simply in the numbers: More than 3,500 candidates stood in the election for a 200-seat national assembly. About 80% the 3.5 million eligible voters registered to cast a ballot. Men and women, young and old waited patiently in long lines in cities and towns across Libya -- some that were war zones only a year ago. After voting, people proudly waved their right index finger smudged in purple indelible ink as proof of their vote. More than 13,000 soldiers were on the streets Saturday. But not all went smoothly. In the eastern city of Ajdabiya, five polling centers opened but four others on the outskirts were closed. Earlier this week protestors in the east who feel marginalized by Libya's leaders in Tripoli attacked a warehouse and torched ballots and other election materials. The attack was one of several staged by those who see an unequal distribution of seats in the national assembly. Authorities flew in fresh ballots printed in the United Arab Emirates but the shipment did not arrive in time for all the Ajdabiya polls to open in tome. Seven other polling stations in and around Benghazi were also closed due to pro-federalist threats against voters. Some may open later in the day if the security situation improves or there may be voting Sunday at polls that were closed Saturday. On Friday, anti-aircraft fire hit a Libyan air force helicopter transporting ballot boxes from the eastern city of Benghazi to nearby areas, the Interior Ministry said. One person was killed. It was unclear who was behind the attack. Saturday's vote is sure to be a litmus test for post-Gadhafi Libya. The new national assembly will be tasked with appointing a transitional government and crafting a constitution. The nation's new leaders, however, will have their work cut out for them as they begin a new, more democratic era. Amnesty International published a scathing report this week on lawlessness in Libya, urging the nation's authorities to rein in revolutionary militias accused of a plethora of human rights violations and establish a functioning judiciary. The disparate groups came together to topple Gadhafi but remain divided along regional lines. More than 200,000 Libyans are still armed and often operate outside of the law, according to Amnesty. Security is just one of many obstacles. The new government must figure out how to unify the country as it moves forward. That includes a reconciliation process for Gadhafi loyalists. And there is the task of rebuilding a nation ravaged by dictatorship and last year's conflict. The National Transitional Council, Libya's de facto rulers since Gadhafi was captured and killed in October, inherited a land where few civil institutions existed. The new government will have to create a functioning society out of that vacuum. Libyans are clamoring for basic services -- at the top of the list is adequate health care. Other problems are easily visible. Heaps of trash litter roads because of the lack of proper disposal services. Campaign posters and billboards in Libyan cities and towns advertised all the candidates running. Most are unknown to Libyans as is the political process itself. Gadhafi was not one to cultivate political culture. But Libyans have high hopes for their future. "If Libya's issues are a mosaic, I believe I hold one piece of it," said Awziya Shweigi, one of the thousands of candidates. "It might be a small one, but an effective one that completes it." A geneticist by trade, she has been working to identify the bodies of those who died in Libya's eight-month uprising. Now, she said she wants to do more. Frederic Wehrey of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who has been in Libya ahead of the parliamentary vote, said he was guardedly optimistic about Libya's transition. "The glaring shortfalls in the transition are the lack of development in the security sector and the continued activity of powerful militias," Wehrey wrote on the think tank's website. "It's tempting on the surface to see the situation on the ground as chaotic and alarming with armed men roving the streets. But it's not all bad news, in many cases the militias actually maintain a degree of discipline, provide pre-election security, and work with the government to police their own areas -- so things are being kept under control at least for now. The key question is how these militias will react to the election results and the subsequent distribution of power among tribes and towns." Because polling is virtually nonexistent, it's difficult to predict winners and losers in Saturday's voting, said Isobel Coleman of the Council on Foreign Relations. "But it is clear that religion and identity politics will play a vital role," she wrote on the council's website. She, too, expressed optimism but questioned whether women would end up with any significant representation. About 45% of registered voters are women. "Solid, but imperfect progress," Coleman wrote. "In theory, half of the 80 seats reserved for political parties are supposed to go to women because political party lists are required to contain equal numbers of men and women," she said. Shweigi said she may not be an expert on defense or the national budget, but as a woman, she represents a large part of Libyan society. She is a widow and mother of six, and said her experience with family will make her an asset. She has been campaigning on the streets, fully covered in Islamic dress, talking to women -- and men. That's a huge change in this Islamic nation, said Samer Muscati of Human Rights Watch. "Previously we would not have as many pictures of women outside in public spaces, and now that's becoming a normal event at least in Tripoli and some other areas as well," he said. "So I think this election is changing women's participation not only in politics but also in a larger scale." Shweigi said she doesn't expect to win Saturday. But she, like so many other Libyans, feels she was born again after Gadhafi was gone. And she wanted to experience the fruits of the revolution.

China:Clinton's criticism of China over Syria "unacceptable"

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Saturday said that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's criticism of China at the latest Friends of Syria meeting is "unacceptable." "China is not impeding the process of resolving the Syrian issues," Liu Weimin said at a regular press conference in response to a question on Clinton's remarks on Friday in Paris. At the third Friends of Syria meeting, Clinton said Russia and China were "holding up progress" in a settlement to the 16-month crisis, describing their stances as "no longer tolerable." But Liu retorted, "On the contrary, China has made an important contribution to safeguarding the UN Charter, the basic norms governing international relations, the peace and stability of the region and the fundamental interests of the Syrian people as well as pursuing a political solution to the Syrian issues." The spokesman said the Geneva meeting, a ministerial-level gathering of the Action Group on Syria in which China played a constructive role, produced positive outcomes. The Geneva meeting on June 30 gathered foreign ministers of the UN Security Council's five permanent members along with Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar, Iraq, plus representatives of the UN, the Arab League and the European Union. The ministers agreed that a transitional government should be set up in Syria to end the conflict but did not stipulate the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad. China's impartial and constructive stance as well as its diplomatic efforts have been widely recognized and supported by the international community, said Liu, adding that any efforts to blemish the image of China or make mischief between it and other nations will end in vain.

Sunday Magazine Feature By Said Nazir Published: September 11, 2011
If it weren’t for the support of their father and the persistence of their mother, Farida Afridi and Noor Zia Afridi would not be able to read a single word of this article. But today, the two are not only final year students of MSc in Gender studies and holders of MBA degrees, but are also determined champions of women’s education and empowerment. Farida and Noor’s long struggle against discriminatory tribal customs started when they were school children. “After we completed our primary education, our male family members wanted us to stop going to school,” says Farida. But the girls’ parents were adamant that they would continue their education. Since then, equal status for women and children’s rights have been issues close to their hearts. It was to win these rights that the two established the Society for Appraisal and Women Empowerment in Rural Areas (SAWERA) in the Jamrud subdivision of Khyber Agency in December 2008. “The government is oblivious of the general attitude of tribesmen towards women and the extent of inequality in our patriarchal society. This pushed us to start a struggle for their empowerment,” says Farida, sitting in her well-furnished office in Peshawar. Interestingly, though their struggle is for women’s rights, their inspiration was a male student-cum-social worker named Laal Jan. “We used to see Laal Jan as a student, doing social work in our village. His dedication provided us with the impetus to step into this field,” says Farida. It wasn’t a smooth ride. Their parents may have been in favour of their education, but seeing their daughters transform into pioneering social workers was something else. They faced tough resistance when they told their family about the path they had chosen for themselves — to promote women’s rights by launching an NGO. Eventually, Laal Jan came to the rescue, convincing the girls’ parents to support them after several long conversations. “I told them that there was no harm in women working in the field,” recalls Jaan. “Far from earning the girls a bad name, their social work would actually increase their families’ prestige, if they served the local community well.” “We told our parents that we would work in accordance with our religious and cultural traditions, assuring them that we would never let the family honour suffer because of our line of work. Finally, they agreed,” says chadar-clad Noor, who covers half her face while working in the office and in the field. As for Lal Jaan, he was not only the initial inspiration for SAWERA and a key mediator during its establishment — his association with the organisation has turned out to be a long term one. Presently, he is volunteering as a technical advisor. “With the exception of eight women volunteering for SAWERA, more than half of the 20-member staff consists of tribal women,” says Lal Jaan, who is of opinion that the local staff gives SAWERA an edge over all others in the field. Before the establishment of SAWERA, says Noor Zia, “Only men were leading NGOs in Jamrud. Rigid tribal customs prevented them from approaching women and addressing their concerns with ease. Ours is the only functional organisation in the area which is led by women, and works for the welfare of women and children free of traditional constraints.” Since its inception, SAWERA has held a number of awareness sessions for locals with regards to women and children’s rights. Highly attuned to local sentiments, SAWERA’s policy of respecting tradition has paid dividends. “We are well respected in the community…everyone knows our family background and our struggle for this cause has been well-received,” says Farida. “Keeping local tradition in mind, we cover ourselves in chadar and hold our activities inside houses — rather than out in the open — which encourage the local people to cooperate with us.” They also avoid implementing projects on controversial issues like AIDS and family planning, which may incite the local community against their cause. While local customs are a challenge that SAWERA has overcome beautifully, local militancy is another story altogether. Like all other organisations engaged in this field, SAWERA occasionally gets threats from militants. Preferring to be part of the solution, it held a workshop on peace in the region last year in which more than 50 women participated. “Women can play an active role in countering terrorism and militancy,” says Noor. “By educating women, we can prevent their sons from becoming militants and by educating children we can enable them to choose a better future for themselves.” At present SAWERA is running three Information Technology (IT) centres in Jamrud, with segregated classes for male and female students. “Half the students are female — they were enrolled by their parents only after our colleagues addressed their reservations about sending their daughters to the IT centre,” Noor reveals. The project aims to equip students with enough computer skills to enable them to secure jobs. “One of the primary objectives of SAWERA is the financial empowerment of women which is essential for their self reliance and independence,” says Lal Jaan proudly. And most of SAWERA’s projects focus on just that. The NGO opened two garment shops with the help of a donor, which are successfully being run by two poor women from their homes in Gul Rehman village. Also, during 2009, SAWERA helped establish six male and female Community Based Organisations (CBO) each, later linking one of the female CBOs with an international donor, which is now running a vocational training centre for women in Tedi Bazaar Jamrud. “A number of women are making money out of it, while others are learning the skill of sewing and embroidery,” says Farida. Farida and Noor Zia earn a small amount of money from their work to support their studies and to sustain their NGO when they have no running projects. “We don’t give financial support to our families, neither do we ask them to support us,” says Farida, who along with Noor, enjoys financial independence. In an effort to disprove stereotypes, Farida and Noor are paving the way for many others and have cleverly surmounted the multiple challenges of being women in tribal society. Now, they want to reach out to more and more people, by extending their operation to the rest of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA. “This is just the beginning … we still have a long way to go to change the plight of women in these areas,” says Noor. The two girls, who started with a personal struggle to acquire an education, have actually begun a women’s movement which may well have far-reaching and radical consequences in Pakistan’s tribal belt. Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, September 11th, 2011.

Tribal NGOs condemn brutal assassination of Fareeda Afridi
A condolence meeting was held in SPO office Peshawar to remember Ms. Farida Afridi who was brutally assassinated by the
brutal, negative and anti social forces today morning at Jamrud Khyber Agency, FATA. Farida Afridi was a founding member of SAWERA organization which is active doing its social activities for the uplift of women in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in general and Khyber Agency in particular. At the moment she was the HR Manager in her said organization. Today morning on Saturday, July 4, 2012 as she left her home for office in Hayatabad Peshawar immediately two criminals having Kalashnikovs in their hands appeared on a motorcycle who intercepted her and shot her dead. The culprits fled away after the incident. This was not the first incident of a social worker in FATA. On December 8, 2011 Mr. Zartif Khan Afridi a well known human rights defender and partner of SPO was also killed and an unknown Islamic jihadist out fit with name Al Uzzam Brigade took the responsibility. Al Uzzam Brigade is active killing people affiliated with development sector in Khyber Agency and Mohmand Agency FATA. Zartif Khan Afridi had arranged a tribal Jirga few days before his death. Terrorists had announced after the death of Zartif Khan Afridi that who so ever found involved in social and human rights activities in Khyber Agency would be killed. In Mohmand Agency well known and noted journalist and a partner of SPO Muhammad Khan Atif was murdered at a time when he was standing for evening prayers. Ms. Farida, Zartif Khan Afridi and Mukarram Khan Atif all were the partners of SPO-Peshawar, members FATA Civil Society Network and Tribal NGOs Consortium. The sudden and brutal killing of the said social workers in FATA discouraged those who work in FATA for the uplift of the marginalized and down trodden people especially women. It is the responsibility of state and security agencies to protect the human rights defenders in FATA and elsewhere. Both have badly failed and have no sympathy for the people who are killed in such incidents. If civil society did not unite for its right then it is feared that other social workers will be killed in this way. Both government and security agencies will be sleeping and people like Farida, Zartif Khan, Khan Habib Afridi and Mukarram Khan Atif will be mercilessly killed. We the participants of civil society organizations in Peshawar strongly condemn this tragic death and vow to raise our voice against this tyranny and brutality at the hands of anti state elements who have been given free hand to kill people of civil society. We the participants also demand for the immediate arrest of the culprits who should be given exemplary punishment as per law of the country. Those who were present on the occasions were Arshad Haroon Regional Head SPO Peshawar, Shahid Mehmood, Ijaz Durrani of SPO, Idrees Kamal Coordinator Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society and Amn Tehrik, Zar Ali Khan Afridi, Coordinator FRs CSN and Chairman Tribal NGOs Consortium, Malik Luqman of FATA Democratic Movement and Ameer Khan of Pakhtun Democratic Council. Besides a large number of people representing civil society also participated and prayed for the departed soul. Issued by Tribal NGOs Consortium

Pakistan can help relations by arresting Mumbai terror attack suspects
India's foreign secretary has told Pakistan that the biggest confidence building measure it could take to improve relations between the two countries would be to arrest the 2008 Mumbai terror attack suspects. His comments were made following talks with his Pakistani counterpart in New Delhi, which were part of a series that has raised hopes of significant progress in improving the fraught relationship. The two countries came close to breaking point following the massacre in Mumbai in which ten terrorists killed 166 civilians. Hopes of a breakthrough had increased in recent months following a series of "confidence building measures" to increase trade and people to people contacts across the border. However, they have been overshadowed by reports that a terrorist suspect arrested in Saudi Arabia has told Indian investigators that Pakistani intelligence figures were in the Karachi control room where the key plotters directed the ten terrorists in the atrocity. His reported claims echo those made by India's home secretary and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh shortly after the attacks, which raised fears of a new war between the nuclear neighbours and rivals.Syed Zabiuddin Ansari, an Indian Muslim from Maharashtra who was recently deported from Saudi Arabia allegedly told investigators he had taught Hindi to the ten attackers and given them tips on how to dress like typical young Mumbaikars. He is believed to have joined the Lashkar e Taiba group which carried out the attacks. The LeT began as a militant group fighting to end Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir, but it has since grown to become a global terrorist organisation with close ties to al-Qaeda. It is believed to have been used by Pakistan's security forces as a proxy for attacks on Indian troops in Kashmir. Indian frustration over the lack of progress in Pakistan's investigation into the Mumbai attacks has been muted recently, but it surfaced again yesterday when Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said Islamabad should do more if relations are to make progress. "I emphasised that terrorism is the biggest threat to peace and security in the region and that bringing the guilty to justice in the Mumbai terror attacks would be the biggest confidence-building measure of all," he said. His counterpart Jalil Abbas Jilani however rejected Indian claims of state complicity. Islamabad is however "willing to enter comprehensive co-operation in order to defeat the forces of terrorism," he said.

Pakistan: Political stability must for economic prosperity

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf Saturday said Pakistan needed political continuity to become a stronger and respectable nation among the comity of the nations. Talking to notables from his constituency here at PM House, the Prime Minister said, “Pakistan has vast natural resources, which are many times more than the oil rich countries of the world but could not be exploited due to the political uncertainty and disruption of the political process.” He said economic development and corresponding prosperity are intertwined with political stability.

k.Pakhtunkhwa:PAC detects irregularities in agriculture, dairy development dept

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly has found irregularities to the tune of billions of rupees in the department of Agriculture and Dairy Department Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and directed high level inquiry against the responsible officers, to recover the amounts. The meeting of the committee was held at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa House Abbottabad with Speaker, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Kiramatullah Khan in the chair. Besides members Saqibullah Khan Chamkani, Malik Tehmash Khan, Syed Mohammad Ali Shah Bacha and Fazal Shakoor Khan, Secretary Assembly Amanullah Khan, Secretary agriculture Afsar Khan, Vice Chancellor Agriculture University Peshawar Dr. Bahadar Khan, Director General Livestock Dr. Ghufranullah. Director General, Audit Sikandar Khan and other officers and officials. The meeting took Auditor General Audit Observation 2010-11 about Director General Extension and Dairy Development Department and took a number of decisions during the course of inquiry about embezzlement of Rs.8.2 million in the Department of Livestock and Dairy Development. The committee ordered inquiry into the matter and recovery of the amount. The Speaker also ordered inquiry into the dairy development farm and windmill in D.I. Khan. He directed the presentation of the report in Public Accounts Committee with immediate effect. The committee while discussing the matter of same departments audit report 2009-10, also found some irregularities and dubious entries in stock register and showed concern over the matter. The department replied that a clerk was forcefully retired in this matter and recovery was also made from him. However, the committee rejected the plea of the department, saying that merely a clerk cannot be held responsible for such a big embezzlement. The committee was of the view that involvement of the officers concerned can not be ruled out. The committee further observed that due to lack of command and control system in the department, such irregularities occurred which cannot be tolerated at any cost. The committee directed the audit department to further thrash out and investigate the matter and present a comprehensive report within a period of two weeks. The committee meeting will now meet on Monday.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa lacks capacity to use growing foreign funds

The billions of rupees worth of ‘budgetary support’ has improved the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s chances of spending more out of the foreign grants in the financial year 2012-13, according to development planners. “We are hopeful that the provincial government will record a marked improvement by utilising a greater amount of grants being provided by foreign donors,” said an official development planner. A couple of other official development planners, however, disagreed when Dawn asked for their views. According to them, the provincial government’s foreign funded development portfolio was too large and its line departments were quite weak to handle it at a time when the size of the locally funded component of the Annual Development Programme has also grown manifold in the last few years. They based their views on the provincial government’s performance in the financial year that ended on June 30 last. The government had allocated Rs16.113 billion for 39 foreign funded projects, including an accumulative amount of Rs12.8 billion that had been estimated to be provided as grants to the province by donors. The rest of Rs3.3 billion was of loan money. “If the recent history is anything to believe, then the provincial government does not stand a chance to ensure 100 per cent utilisation of foreign funds reflected in its new ADP,” said a senior official. Against the initial allocations of Rs16.1 billion, the province has estimated to spend Rs7.5 billion out of the foreign assistance, making only 47 per cent of the initially estimated allocations. However, most official development planners believe that the province stands better chances to improve its utilisation of funds out of foreign assistance this year because a large chunk has been provided to it as ‘budget support.’ “DFID (Department for International Development) would provide funds as ‘budgetary support’ that will help utilise funds at a faster pace,” said an official. He said the provincial government would not be required to get approval of its projects from the Central Development Working Party since the money would be placed with the provincial education department as budgetary support. The United Kingdom’s development department, according to the official, would provide the over Rs1.1 billion first tranche as support to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa education sector programme and Rs4.026 billion second tranche for the same programme in the ongoing financial year. An official concerned said the provincial education department would be able to plan and decide its KP lacks capacity to use growing foreign funds activities out of the ‘budgetary support’ funds without being required to take approvals from CDWP or PDWP, saving time. The provincial government has estimated that it would receive Rs19.56 billion grants from international donors and foreign loans of Rs3.7 billion in the current financial year. It will require the provincial government to spend an accumulative amount of Rs23.3 billion on 52 projects that would make up an all time high foreign funded development portfolio of the province. DFID will be the major development partner of the provincial government as it will provide about Rs7.5 billion as grant followed by Rs3.3 billion to be provided by European Union, Rs2.5 billion by Narcotics Affairs Section of the US government, and Rs1.2 billion by the Multi Donor Trust Fund. Those, who believe that the province won’t make a better use of the grant money, said a lot of money was meant for improving road network and construction of school buildings and a large number of smaller infrastructure development schemes. “Construction work usually takes a lot of time to complete and even it takes time to initiate work on such projects,” said a development planner. However, the optimistic ones among planners said utilisation of foreign funds would be improved this year because many of the projects were in implementation phase, while there won’t be many official procedures to satisfy. The official said a large amount of foreign funds could not be spent last year because work on some projects started late only after their planning documents (PC-1) were granted approval by the competent official forums. According to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s ADP for 2012-13, there will be a total of 52 projects to be executed with foreign assistance. Some 13 new projects will be launched in the new financial year, requiring the official executing agencies to get PC-1s of their projects approved from the competent official forums. “It means we can expect delays and non-utilisation of foreign funds,” said an official of the planning and development department.

Chinese in Pakistan banking

The Bank of China (BOC), the second Chinese bank after the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC) is making its entry in Pakistan. Entrance of Asian banking giants following exodus of western banks suggest changing dynamics of banking industry in Pakistan. ICBC, the world's biggest bank by capitalization, has already started operations with one branch each in Karachi and Islamabad. The BOC, in which the Chinese Sovereign Wealth Fund holds a substantial stake, is focusing on corporate and personal banking and also on investment banking. The expanding bilateral trade between Pakistan and China has attracted Chinese financial market giants to mark their presence in Pakistan. The BOC recently entered Kenya and has operations in other countries, including South Africa and Zambia. The recent HSBC decision to wind up its operation in Pakistan is undergoing restructuring after continued global financial crisis and failure of banks in United States and now in Europe. The Royal Bank of Scotland was also the victim of financial crisis in Europe. Pakistani bankers said the entrance of Chinese banks could change the banking trend which largely depends upon government papers for profitability. The African experience shows that the two Chinese banks have enormous skills and energy to explore and grab the potential available in Pakistan, a market of 180 million population. The leadership of the two countries has been emphasising to increase the volume of bilateral trade which has increased in the last three years, mostly in favour of China. Pakistan has also signed a currency swap agreement (of $1 billion) with China to improve bilateral trade and investment. The decision of two Chinese banks to start working in Pakistan may also be a broad indication of Islamabad's keenness of promoting cooperation with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation that will give Pakistan a huge economic opportunity, particularly reaching the markets of Central Asian Republics, Russia and, of course in the first instance, China. Banking anal ysts said the weakening of European banks and Arab economies have also opened space for the Chinese banks to tap the potential. Simultaneously, the initiative of a Turkish bank, Isbank, to enter into Pakistan is also a positive sign for the growth of financial sector. India is also making effort to open banks in Pakistan to increase its trade with Pakistan and Afghanistan. The entry of Chinese banks in Pakistan will no doubt give a boost to the already all weather friendship between the two neighbouring states, but augurs well for the country's sluggish economy that has, under the operational influence of western banks, failed to pick up pace and stands relegated to one of the lowest even in South Asian perspective. The step is a healthy departure from an unhealthy past and strongly indicates that Islamabad has seriously been pursuing the goal of looking eastwards.

Clinton in Afghanistan for talks with Karzai

The Obama administration on Saturday declared Afghanistan the United States' newest "major non-NATO ally," an action designed to facilitate close defense cooperation after U.S. combat troops withdraw from the country in 2014 and as a political statement of support for Afghanistan's long-term stability. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who arrived in Kabul on an unannounced visit to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai, disclosed the alliance to diplomats at the U.S. Embassy. The designation allows for streamlined defense cooperation, including expedited purchasing ability of American equipment and easier export control regulations. Afghanistan's military, which is heavily dependent on American and foreign assistance, already enjoys many of these benefits. The non-NATO ally status guarantees it will continue to do so. "I am going to be announcing formally with President Karzai in just a little bit that President Obama has officially designated Afghanistan as what's called a major non-NATO ally of the United States," Clinton said. Afghanistan becomes the 15th such country the U.S. has declared a major non-NATO ally. Others include Australia, Egypt, Israel and Japan. Afghanistan's neighbor Pakistan was the last nation to gain the status in 2004. The declaration was part of a Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by Presidents Barack Obama and Karzai in Kabul at the beginning of May. On July 4, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, and the country's foreign minister announced that the two countries had completed their internal processes to ratify the Agreement, which has now gone into force. Clinton and Karzai were expected to discuss U.S.-Afghan civilian and defense ties and stalled Afghan reconciliation efforts. From Kabul, Clinton is heading later Saturday to Japan for an international conference on Afghan civilian assistance. Donors are expected to pledge around $4 billion a year in long-term civilian support. Clinton arrived in Afghanistan from Paris, where she attended a 100-nation conference on Syria.

Afghan Aid Must Assist Women, the Displaced: Rights Groups

Displaced Afghans and women should be the major concerns for donors giving aid to Afghanistan, human rights groups said Wednesday. Amnesty International said that any aid funding pledged to Afghanistan at a donor conference in Tokyo next Sunday must also help those displaced by decades of conflict and living in miserable conditions. Half a million Afghans who have been uprooted by insecurity live in urban slums, deprived of their right to adequate housing, food, water, health and education, a statement on the group's website said. "The burgeoning problem of displacement is a human rights crisis and could lead to greater instability in the otherwise relatively stable urban areas - the Afghan government and its international partners must address this long-neglected issue," Amnesty's Afghanistan researcher Horia Mosadiq said in the statement Wednesday. The US refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates that the number of people displaced inside the country could rise to 700,000 by the end of 2013, Amnesty noted. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that a failure to include women in decision-making processes and high-level policy discussions increases the fear that women's rights might be bargained away in the desire to bring peace through a compromise with the Taliban. HRW said on it website that donors in Tokyo should make it clear to the Afghan government that continued international support will be linked to further progress on women's rights. Furthermore, they should ensure that adequate funding remains available to support schools, clinics, hospitals, shelters and other essential services. It noted that half of all Afghan girls are not in school, very few finish high school, and attacks on girls' schools are common. While women in public life or working outside the home face threats and sometimes violence. The meeting in Tokyo on July 8 of will bring together as many as 70 international organisations and donors with the aim of securing aid commitments for Afghanistan after 2014 when most Nato troops will withdraw from the country. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that he is seeking $3.9 billion in annual international assistance to rebuild the country's economy at the Tokyo conference. The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon will attend the high-level international conference, Japan's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

Kabul faces pressure on graft at Tokyo aid meet

Daily Times
Tens of billions of dollars have poured into Afghanistan since the US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban in late 2001, but graft is rife from local police to high officials, and patience among donor countries is wearing thin Ahead of the exit of foreign combat troops, Afghanistan faces pressure to tackle pervasive corruption as it seeks billions in new aid at an international conference in Tokyo on Sunday. Tens of billions of dollars have poured into Afghanistan since the US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban in late 2001, but graft is rife from local police to high officials, and patience among donor countries is wearing thin. Afghanistan wants to see around $4 billion a year in civilian assistance pledged in Tokyo for its aid-dependent economy, amid fears that donations could dry up when NATO pulls out in 2014. But a principle of “mutual accountability” will be stressed at the 70-nation meeting, making continued payment of aid conditional on Kabul making progress, particularly on transparency. After more than 30 years of war, the Afghan economy is weak and the country cannot survive without foreign aid. According to the World Bank, spending on defence and development by donors accounted for more than 95 percent of GDP in 2010-11. Without a functioning economy, Kabul covers only $2 billion of the $6 billion it spends each year not counting security costs, said a Western diplomat, with donor countries making up the difference. President Hamid Karzai, who will be in Tokyo along with officials including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon, has called for $4 billion a year in civilian aid for Afghanistan. That would add to the $4.1 billion promised annually at a Chicago conference in May for security costs. The Western diplomat said the Afghans were terrified that when NATO pulls out, the money will disappear with them. Sources expect a deal worth up to $3.9 billion a year to be agreed in Tokyo, but after more than 10 years of sacrificing soldiers and tax dollars to the Afghan cause, leading donors are proving hard to persuade. “We are not blind. We feel a considerable fatigue among the taxpayers,” said another diplomat. European Union ambassador Vygaudas Usackas said the bloc was “committed to continue to prioritise the support to Afghanistan in the coming decade, enhancing our overall support post-2014”. But the money will come with strings attached. A European diplomat said work was needed in five key areas: better management of public finances; improved tax collection; guarantees on rights, particularly for women; legal reforms; and “credible” elections in 2014. “Without tangible progress in these five areas, it will be difficult for donors to maintain their support to Afghanistan,” the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, who will jointly chair the Tokyo conference, said he was hoping it would result in pledges worth at least $3.0 billion a year. But in an interview with the Asahi Shimbun newspaper published Friday, he also warned of conditions for Karzai’s government. “(Kabul) must improve its governance capacity, including eradicating corruption,” he said, adding a mechanism to review progress in these areas every two years had to be developed. But there is resistance from the Afghans, who regard such conditions as attacks on their sovereignty. “Many times, the international community wanted to tell us what to do or not and how to do it. But the Afghan government can only be fully responsible if it’s able to make its own decisions,” said a senior Afghan government official. Aid organisations are also worried about what will happen to aid after 2014. Since 2001, life expectancy has risen from 47 to 62 years for men and from 50 to 64 for women, according to Oxfam, which warned the good work of the last decade could be undone. “Development gains made in Afghanistan over the last decade are in danger of being thrown away if levels of aid fall away in conjunction with the withdrawal of international troops in 2014,” the British aid group said. Oxfam said the United States, Afghanistan’s biggest single donor, has already cut development aid by nearly half in 2011, from $4.1bn to $2.5bn.

U.S. signals Afghanistan not to be abandoned

The United States has named Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Saturday, a move that could reinforce Washington's message to Afghans that they will not be abandoned as the war winds down. Clinton announced the decision, formally made by President Barack Obama, during her unannounced visit to Kabul where she will meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the eve of a major donors' conference in Tokyo which will draw pledges for aid. "I am going to be announcing formally with President Karzai in just a little bit... There is a very small number of countries that fit into that category," Clinton told U.S. embassy staff in Kabul. Obama's decision meets a pledge he made on a visit to Afghanistan this year to upgrade Kabul to a special security status given to only a limited number of U.S. partners -- including close allies like Israel and Japan -- which are not members of NATO. The status upgrade, which will make it easier for Afghanistan to acquire defense materiel from the United States, follows NATO's decision to withdraw most combat troops by the end of 2014. Participants at the Tokyo meeting are expected to commit just under $4 billion annually in development aid for Afghanistan at Sunday's meeting, though the central bank has said the country needs at least $6 billion a year to foster economic growth over the next decade. U.S. officials with Clinton declined to say how much aid the United States would pledge, which has significantly reduced aid since the peak year of 2010 when more than $6 billion was given, two thirds from Washington. "I think both the overall hard number of the international assistance as well as the U.S. percentage of that number will be coming down," said one senior official traveling with Clinton. DONOR FATIGUE, WAR WEARINESS Now, donor fatigue and war weariness are taking their toll on how long the global community is willing to support Afghanistan, and there are fears that without financial backing, the country could slip back into chaos when foreign troops withdraw. U.S. officials acknowledged that the trend lines for donating development aid were heading down. Major donors and aid organizations have warned that weak political will and graft could prevent funds reaching the right people at a critical time, when fragile gains in health and education could be lost if funding does not continue. Assuaging those fears, the U.S. official added: "But that (amount) is still high enough and specific enough to show that there is a true commitment by the entire international community". U.S. officials may be reluctant to cite a specific pledge because the sum actually given is ultimately controlled by Congress, which holds the U.S. government's purse strings. Enthusiasm for foreign aid has generally waned in Congress because of massive U.S. budget deficits. Clinton's talks with Karzai were expected to touch on efforts to achieve reconciliation with the Taliban, the U.S. official added.