|Friday, February 18, 2000,
terrorist groups worry USA
should go back to barracks
Haj pilgrims stranded
NATO agree to thaw ties
set to orbit as hotel for rich
Pak terrorist groups worry USA
WASHINGTON, Feb 17 (UNI) The Clinton Administration has made quite clear to Pakistan the US concern about activities of some terrorist groups which operate within or outside its territory, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, adding that we have that under continual review.
We have been concerned about the fact that groups like the Harakat ul-Mujahideen, which we believe was involved in the recent hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane, operate in Pakistan and that they have been a transit point for terrorists, she said during a hearing of the House International Relations Committee yesterday.
Ms Albright said, the USA had discussions with the Musharraf government, as we had previously with the Sharif government. And, it is obviously with our concern about terrorism and the way that it affects the whole region, it is something that has been very important to us, and we have been concerned about Pakistans support for the Taliban, who are, in turn, closely linked to Osama bin Laden. So, we are actively addressing these issues.
Generals should go back to barracks
LONDON, Feb 17 (PTI) Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has appealed to Islamabad and New Delhi to end their war of words and said army generals in Pakistan must return to barracks, hold elections and help build peace in the region.India and Pakistan must end their war of words and come to terms with each other. A lot of rhetoric has been used by both sides and it is time they rose above such rhetoric, she said, adding then only people of the two countries could prosper.
I would like to see men and women of goodwill on both sides of the border (India and Pakistan) together to put aside the poisonous past but the military regime in Islamabad makes it difficult, she told PTI here last night.
Instead of trying to run the municipality, revenue collection and foreign office, the generals must go back to barracks and order elections, Ms Bhutto said.
The Pakistan Peoples Party chief said as a patriotic Pakistani she was worried about the internal situation in Pakistan which is quite complicated. That is why I and my party are urging the generals to go back to barracks.
Ms Bhutto, who attended a function to celebrate publication of Zaiwalla and Co., Solicitors book, India! Colours of Continent, said in reply to a question that negotiations between India and Pakistan suffered a serious setback because of Kargil episode.
Gen Pervez Musharraf (the chief executive) is not trusted (by India) because of his perceived role (in Kargil), Ms Bhutto said.
Admitting that it was difficult to build confidence under the military rule, she said ever since the military coup, relations between India and Pakistan had deteriorated.
She said during her prime ministership she had reached five agreements with her Indian counterpart Rajiv Gandhi three published agreements and two draft agreements.
While the published agreements were non-attack on each others nuclear facility, establishing hotlines and expansion of trade, the two draft agreements were for redeployment of forces in Kargil without prejudice to each others stated position and mutual troop reduction, she said.
Stating that the Pakistani economy was suffering, Ms Bhutto said the country had come to a standstill as it was mismanaged by successive finance ministers.
42 Haj pilgrims stranded
DUBAI, Feb 17 (UNI) Fortytwo Indian Haj pilgrims, brought to Jeddah on the night of February 11 by a private tour group, were stranded at the airports Haj terminal for two days due to lack of money.
Their bank drafts were with the leader of the tour group, who did not travel with these pilgrims. They finally left the Haj terminal on February 13 night after the arrival of a representative of the tour group, called Nurul Haram.
The Indian Consulate in Jeddah said it had asked private tour operators to ensure that the pilgrims did not get stranded due to lack of money or accommodation.
According to Consul-General of India in Jeddah Afzal Amanullah, 54 Haj charter flights have reached the kingdom from India so far, carrying 20,272 pilgrims sponsored by the Haj Committee.
The pilgrims were first being taken to Mecca where they perform umrah and then after a day they were being sent to Madina for eight days. Till Tuesday night, 14572 pilgrims had been sent to Madina.
Mr Amanullah said the Indian Medical Mission had treated 4, 551 pilgrims to date at Mecca, Madina and at Jeddah Haj terminal. Most of the complaints related to fever, flu, sore throat, cough and weakness.
He said it was mandatory for all Haj Committee pilgrims to wear their metal wrist bands when they came from India in order to ensure their safety. It had been noticed that the pilgrims tried to avoid wearing the metal wrist bands but it was not proper, he added.
Mr Amanullah said it was noticed that all pilgrims on an Air India flight from Delhi on February 13 came without their metal wrist bands.
He also advised the pilgrims to carry some warm clothing as well as a blanket for their protection as it was still cold in Saudi Arabia.
The pilgrims should also
ensure that they came to Jeddah with valid travel
documents, valid return tickets, valid Haj visas,
meningitis certificate, required bank draft and an
original doctors prescription if they were carrying
medicines from India.
Window on Pakistan
While in India efforts are on to find some pretext to deprive agriculture of the little concessions it has enjoyed so far,in Pakistan schemes are being devised to attend to the problems of farming and related economic activity on a priority basis. The primary purpose is to make Pakistan self-sufficient in foodgrains. Food is also used as a weapon today. It seems the military ruler has realised the unique significance of this two-edged weapon. Its one edge can help him in perpetuating his rule, the other may work as a shield to withstand the onslaught of any foreign agency. The first step towards the acquisition of this most potent weapon the military establishment has taken is the initiation of a move to set up a major organisation named the Independent Economic Advisory Board to provide policy inputs in the area of agriculture.
As is obvious, newspapers have generally lauded the plan to give all-out support to this crucial sector and have come out with useful suggestions on the subject. The plan, however, is full of weaknesses. The government has set aside a mere Rs 100
billion to meet the credit needs of the farming sector, which is the largest segment of economy in Pakistan. According to The News, "The suggested sum may be peanuts for a sector that is (big enough to contribute) 25 per cent of the gross domestic product, employs half of the total labour force and ensures that most of the country's 140 billion people do not sleep hungry. But seen against the criminal apathy the policy-makers have been showing towards agriculture, the credit proposal is a healthy sign, reflecting a healthy attitude."
True, agriculture has been the most neglected area Pakistan despite the fact that it has been ruled by a combination which included landlords. Yet it has been doing better than industry. Even the latest figures available on the subject bear this out. The country's economy continues to be in the grip of a severe recession, but cotton, rice and certain minor crops have yielded good results. In fact, the industries which get their raw material from agriculture like textiles and sugar and those which fulfil the requirements of the farming sector like tractors and fertilisers have shown more encouraging results, according to The Dawn, which quoted the second quarterly report of the State Bank of Pakistan in support of this claim.Political instability has dampened the interest of foreign investors. Whatever industrial growth is visible it is there mainly because of the utilisation of the idle capacity. The government has drastically reduced the expenditure on development projects. Unemployment is on the increase. In such a situation, agriculture is the only area from where economic planners get the cheering news.
Farmers have come to the rescue of Pakistan when everybody is busy looting the country. They have abundant capacity to produce wealth which has remained unutilised. As The News says, "With more credit must come easier access, softer terms, and guidelines for its efficient and productive use. Rural banks are a good idea provided their managers do not treat the tiller of the land as a plebeian, and his due share in credit a favour. The farmer needs to be taken seriously and treated honourably because he can plant the seed of a genuine economic turnaround."
The media's suggestions and the government's plans, however, carry little meaning so long as there are no signs of political stability. The army appears to be in no mood to go back to the barracks, allowing normal political activity which can provide some guarantee for the normalisation of the situation in India's immediate neighbourhood. In fact, under the circumstances, any talk of normalisation of life in Pakistan is meaningless. It appears to be waiting for the worse days to come, thanks to the activities of different jehadi groups spreading their tentacles throughout the country. They have now started organising their own parade, displaying their militia power. Lashkar-e-Toiyaba's name comes on top of the list of such outfits which seem to be bent on taking Pakistan on the road to "Talibanisation" as one can see in Afghanistan. The Lashkar does not believe in the democratic system of governance, as its chief, Prof Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, told Rizwan Razi of The Nation recently. The influence of Lashkar and other jehadi groups is growing fast. Well-meaning Pakistanis consider this as a serious threat to stability in their country. These outfits are unlikely to allow the emergence of a stable order. The ruling General will have to take on these militias first to create an atmosphere congenial for healthy economic growth.
Russia, NATO agree to thaw ties
MOSCOW, Feb 17 (AFP) Russia agreed to thaw ties with NATO nearly a year after Moscow froze cooperation over the alliances air strikes in Yugoslavia, but stopped well short of resuming full relations.
After high-level talks between visiting NATO Secretary-General George Robertson and acting President Vladimir Putin and both Foreign and Defence Ministers, Moscow agreed to resume bilateral contacts as an initial step.
Mir set to orbit as hotel for rich
LONDON, Feb 17 (Reuters) It would be the ultimate tourist destination the Russian MIR space station decked out as a luxurious resort orbiting 200 km from earth.
This is no James Bond fantasy. A group of investors has signed a $ 20 million deal to rent MIR and turn the ageing space station into an out-of-this-world holiday spot and commercial laboratory.
a mission up in March to knock on the door, switch on the
lights and see how everythings going up there.
Its a risky venture but were feeling
confident, said Mr Jeffrey Manber, president of
Mircorp, the company behind the venture which is to be
unveiled in London.
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