UN Says Land Mines Hampering Afghan Agriculture
UNITED NATIONS, April 4, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- A top United Nations official has said land mines continue to keep off limits large patches of fertile soil in Afghanistan.
Jean-Marie Guehenno, under secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, said on April 3 that as a result the quality of life in certain parts of the country had been considerably strained.
Guehenno made his remarks on the eve of International Day for Land Mine Awareness on April 4.
But he also praised ongoing efforts to remove Afghanistan's land mines.
"The Afghanistan [de-mining] program, I think, is a remarkable program, which is remarkable by the massive engagement of the Afghan people in that program," he said. "And the Afghan NGOs, Afghan organizations have been absolutely key in the effort to remove mines."
Guehenno said that even a single buried land mine may force authorities to place "land mine" warnings that make the land unusable.
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Land mine accidents drop in Afghanistan
By ALISA TANG, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - At a lecture on dangers of land mines, the schoolchildren listened in horror as a guest speaker recounted how his left leg was blown off above the knee. It was three years ago, 11-year-old Massoud said, and he had been playing with a kite near his home.
"When I arrived over the top of the hill, suddenly a bomb exploded," the sweet-faced boy said. "No one would come near me because they were afraid another mine would explode. Then I crawled out of the mined area."
After a quarter century of war, Afghanistan is still littered with millions of land mines and other unexploded ordnance, and more mines are being planted in regions of the south where a Taliban-led guerrilla war against NATO forces has been escalating.
Yet as Afghanistan marks International Mine Awareness Day Wednesday, there is some cause for optimism. Accident rates have declined dramatically, thanks to the imaginative and culturally sensitive efforts of organizations such as OMAR — a mine-clearing NGO that recruited Massoud for the recent lesson in a Kabul mosque.
His audience, a classroom full of boys about his age, listened, their mouths agape. Their wide eyes moved from his face to the artificial leg under his gray tunic.
Massoud, who like many Afghans uses only one name, is one of nearly 800 people maimed and killed by the debris of war in Afghanistan every year. That's less than half the number five years ago, when the country was embarking on reconstruction after the fall of the Taliban, the Islamic movement routed by the U.S. and its Afghan allies for hosting Osama bin Laden.
While nothing conveys the danger of land mines quite like a personal account, Massoud's macabre show-and-tell was just one small moment in a campaign that owes much of its success to its sensitivity to conservative Islam.
The U.N. has been demining Afghanistan since 1989, spending an estimated $300 million. It now believes it has cleared more than 60 percent of land sown with mines since the Soviet invasion in 1979. But as many as 4.2 million Afghans still live in suspected mined areas, according to U.N. statistics.
To teach the dangers, educators must tiptoe through a dizzying list of no-no's in a society hypersensitive about portraying even modestly dressed women and girls. In some conservative parts of the country, just photos of human forms and video, which were forbidden by the Taliban during their repressive rule, are also frowned upon.
"Some people object to seeing girls in any of our materials. They don't object to boys, but they do object to girls," said Susan Helseth, an adviser for the U.N. Mine Action Center for Afghanistan who oversees the development of education materials.
The Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR-Japan) had to redo a mine awareness booklet whose cover showed a girl and boy sitting together in a class. An Afghan review committee said children of that age should be segregated by sex, so it was reprinted with boys and girls on separate pages.
AAR-Japan also uses two mobile cinemas run on generators to show villagers an 8-minute mine awareness video called "The Way to Home" — but not in the south, where conservative Muslims reject the idea of screening movies, said the group's director Koji Miyazaki.
He said there is also concern that the actress in the film, Marina Golbahari, may cause anger in former Taliban strongholds because of her role in the award-winning 2003 movie "Osama." The movie portrayed some Taliban as misogynistic pedophiles.
The communications firm Sayara, which works with the aid organization Handicap International, uses mobile theater to get its message across, although without any female characters.
The firm's director Antoine Heudre said it was a good way to reach illiterate people, particularly in villages that lack electricity to run televisions. Some 86 percent of women and 56 percent of men in Afghanistan cannot read.
Despite the many cultural and educational challenges, the mine awareness message, combined with the efforts of deminers, appears to be working. According to the international Red Cross, there were 771 victims of mine and ordnance accidents in 2006 — down from 1,717 victims in 2002.
In all, mines and unexploded ordnance have killed at least 942 people and injured 4,543 in the past five years. Most of the victims are male.
Over the years, simple color-coded messages have been painted on rocks, houses and mountains around the country by deminers: red for danger, white for a cleared area. Also, mine risk educators use painted diagrams to warn children about land mines, cluster bombs and other explosives.
Despite such powerful education efforts, continued land mine accidents appear inevitable. Nearly 90 percent of accidents happen in unmarked areas, and it would take decades to clear Afghanistan entirely — and that is without factoring in the leftovers of ongoing violence.
Mullah Mahmood, a Taliban commander in the southern province of Helmand, told The Associated Press that militants have planted new land mines as part of their armed campaign against heavily armed NATO forces.
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Turkey to send humanitarian aid to disaster-hit Afghanistan
People's Daily Online, China
Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that Turkey is set to send humanitarian aid to Afghanistan where torrential rains have triggered avalanches and floods, leaving 19 of the country's 34 provinces inundated and killing at least 83 people.
According to the statement, a Turkish military cargo plane is expected to take off Wednesday for the Afghan capital Kabul to deliver 800 blankets, 80 tents and 80 field kitchens.
A Turkish delegation of officials from the Ministry of Health and the Turkish Red Crescent would also accompany the humanitarian aid, added the statement.
The Afghan government has declared state of emergency in 13 provinces and requested urgent relief support from international organizations while NATO International Force and the International Committee of the Red Cross have started relief efforts.
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Canada to borrow German tanks for Afghanistan: media
Wed Apr 4, 2:18 AM ET
MONTREAL (AFP) - Canada plans to rent around 20 German tanks to better protect its soldiers in Afghanistan, local media reported Tuesday.
The Canadian government will rent 20 Leopard type A6M tanks from the German army because they offer better protection against anti-tank explosive devices than those currently possessed by the Canadian army, CTV television said.
In addition, the army's 30-year-old C2 tanks cannot be used in Afghanistan because with the summer heat the inside temperature would surpass 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit). The German A6M models are air-conditioned.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper declined to offer specifics when asked about the deal.
"The Cabinet has been discussing the tank issue and we'll have an announcement on that shortly," he said.
Canada has deployed a contingent of 2,500 soldiers in southern Afghanistan where they are part of coalition forces hunting down militants from the ousted Taliban regime and their Islamist allies including Al-Qaeda members.
Since 2002, 45 Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.
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Afghanistan peace conference with Taliban?
BERLIN, April 3 (UPI) -- One of Germany's leading politicians has called for an Afghanistan peace conference involving the Taliban, a move that sparked much criticism.
Kurt Beck, the head of the Social Democratic Party, Chancellor Angela Merkel's partner in Germany's grand coalition government, made such a proposition after a trip to the war-torn country.
Beck said Tuesday after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai that he saw "signals" that pointed to a "possibility for a new conference" and added the Taliban could be involved.
"The proposition is not especially well thought-out," Eckart von Klaeden, a senior foreign policy expert with Merkel's conservatives, told Tuesday's Berliner Zeitung newspaper. Offering the radical Islamists a place at the negotiation table would rather serve as an "international up-valuation of the Taliban that would damage the authority of the elected government of President Hamid Karzai."
Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, another conservative foreign policy expert, told the Financial Times Germany newspaper, in reference to the Taliban, that "anyone who wants to turn Afghanistan into a graveyard for foreign soldiers can't be a negotiation partner."
Germany has hosted three Afghanistan conferences in the past, the last in 2004. A Taliban representative was never present.
The country currently has some 3,000 soldiers stationed with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
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PAKISTAN: Security Concerns Force Afghan Refugees to Stay Ashfaq
Yusufzai, Inter Press Service (IPS) Tue Apr 3, 3:22 PM ET
PESHAWAR, Apr 3 (IPS) - "Lack of security in Afghanistan is the main obstacle standing in the way of our going back," said an Afghan vegetable-seller, straddling a muddy narrow lane in Kacha Garhi, the oldest refugee camp in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), with a push-cart.
The 22-year-old, Najeeb Mohammad, said his family had fled Afghanistan 18 years ago. Now selling vegetable in the streets of the Nasirbagh locality, he says they had planned several times to return to their country but the law and order situation coupled with the lack of job opportunities have compelled them to stay.
Pakistan which is home to an estimated 2.5 million Afghan refugees, is trying its level best to ensure that the refugees return home.
The United Nations refugee agency UNCHR says it has helped repatriate 58,000 Afghans since Mar. 1, when the relocation process resumed after the winter season.
According to a refugee census conducted by the Pakistan Census Organisation in 2005, there are an estimated 2.2 million registered Afghan refugees in the country. Proof of Registration (POR) cards were issued to enable refugees to continue living in Pakistan for three years.
Now the government intends to close Kacha Garhi and Jallozai, 35 km southwest of Peshawar, and two camps in Balochistan by September this year, Yar Mohammad Rind, minister for state and frontier regions, has announced.
The decision affects some 120,000 people in Jallozai and 60,000 in Kacha Garhi. Alizai and Janglekhel camps in Balochistan province together shelter 150,000 Afghan refugees.
"We have credible reports that Afghans run away to Afghanistan after committing crimes, even murders, dacoities (robberies)and car-snatching in Pakistan. About 50 percent of the crimes in the city are committed by them," said Saeed Wazir, a senior police official.
Haji Mohammed, an elderly Afghan, told IPS that the refugees could not go back to Afghanistan, primarily because of a worsening law and order situation there. Lack of basic amenities in the country was also hampering their repatriation, he added.
"I led a four-member family to Pakistan in 1980, but now my family has grown to 54 members," he said.
"Let the government throw our women and children in the Kabul River but at no cost will we go back to Afghanistan," a 'jirga' (traditional assembly) of the two NWFP refugee camps told minister Rind on Mar. 29.
The elders were of the view that the situation in Afghanistan was extremely dangerous and civilians were being killed there, while there was no shelter, education, health facilities and employment opportunities in the war-ravaged country.
Sahibzada Mohammad Anees, Commissioner Afghan Refugees (CAR), pointed out that Pakistan was not a signatory to the Geneva Convention or any other protocol to shelter and feed such a large number of Afghans, yet it would not resort to the use of force for their repatriation.
"Pakistan is providing shelter to more than 2.5 million Afghans on humanitarian grounds," he said. The government has never imposed a ban on their movement and activities in any part of the country, he explained. Instead, they have been given livelihood opportunities and exemptions from several taxes, he concluded.
"We face a lot of problems. Police arrests us and sets us free only after we have paid them a bribe," said Gul Wali, an Afghan tax-driver at Kacha Garhi.
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have lately been sour. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accused Islamabad of meddling not only in his country's affairs but also of supporting and providing sanctuary to the Taliban.
The rebel fighters are thought to be hiding along a 2,400 km porous, tribal belt. Despite the deployment of 80,000 troops, Pakistan has not been able to control the infiltration. The Taliban have taken refuge in Pakistan's border areas after the US-led forces toppled their government in 2001.
"The Afghan refugees' return is a big problem. People of NWFP and Balochistan are extremely worried due to their presence," said, Ashraf Ali, who is doing a doctoral thesis on the Taliban at the University of Peshawar.
Psychiatrist Dr Iftikhar Hussain believes that most Afghan youth who have grown up in Pakistan would not like to return home. "They feel suffocated when they visit their country. There's no electricity, no school, no jobs, no entertainment and no peace," he told IPS.
The Pakistan government had already closed down several camps in an effort to compel Afghan refugees to leave the country. Refugees in Jallozai and Kacha Garhi have been told they can relocate to new camps in Dir and Chitral districts, far south and north of the provincial headquarters Peshawar.
"How can we take care of our children when there are no jobs, no prospects in the new refugee camps?" asked a frustrated Razia Begum, a mother of six children, at Jallozai.
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For Maine soldier in Afghanistan, the biggest fear becomes reality
By Brian MacQuarrie, Boston Globe Staff | April 4, 2007
Army Specialist Christopher M. Wilson, a Maine resident with Massachusetts ties, wrote in a Web profile that his worst fear was not returning from Afghanistan to see his 4-year-old daughter.
That fear became a grim reality Thursday when Wilson, 24, died after a rocket-propelled grenade exploded near his position during a firefight in Korengal. Three other US soldiers were wounded in the attack, according to an Army spokesman.
Wilson, who enlisted in the Army in September 2002 and trained as a rifleman, was deployed to Afghanistan in March 2006 with the First Battalion, 32d Infantry Regiment, Third Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. The unit had been scheduled to return in February, but its tour was extended until June, said Benjamin Abel, a spokesman for the 10th Mountain Division, which is based at Fort Drum, N.Y.
Wilson was born in North Dakota, spent the 1997-98 academic year at North Quincy High School, and lived in South Hadley, Chicopee, and Bangor, according to family friends and the Defense Department.
Before enlisting, Wilson studied culinary arts in Bangor with the Penobscot Job Corps, said Monique LaRiviere, a family friend from South Hadley. Wilson's daughter, Jayden, lives in Maine, and his mother and stepfather live in Chicopee, LaRiviere said. A sister lives in Texas.
"He was a very good friend of my son, pretty much his best friend," LaRiviere said. "He was a really great kid, very upbeat and outgoing and friendly."
Wilson's enthusiasm for the Job Corps, LaRiviere said, encouraged her son, Tom Burke, to follow him into the program.
"He was always trying to push my son into something better," LaRiviere said of Wilson's encouragement for her child, who was three years younger than his friend. "He would say, 'You should do what I did, because I'm really happy this way.' He really did a lot for my son. We're truly sorry to see him gone."
LaRiviere said that she saw Wilson in November, when he visited Massachusetts on leave, and that the soldier's loyalty to his comrades was impressive.
"He was happy to be home, but he was also feeling edgy to get back there, because he knew they were in a bad place," LaRiviere said. "He felt like he was leaving them in the lurch."
Wilson had been stationed in a remote, dangerous outpost near the Pakistan border, where his unit is trying to curb the cross-border movement of Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents, said Abel, the division spokesman.
In Maine, Governor John E. Baldacci has ordered flags flown at half-staff at Wilson's funeral, said spokesman David Farmer . "We will offer every support possible to Specialist Wilson's family," Baldacci said in a statement. "There is a young girl who has lost a father, and it's heartbreaking."
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World Bank to Fund Embankment at Amu Darya River in Afghan North
Tuesday, 3 April 2007, 12:00 CDT
Text of report in English by Afghan independent Pajhwok news agency website
Taloqan, 3 April: The World Bank will provide three million US dollars for the construction of a protective wall on the banks of the Amu Darya (River Oxus) in the northern province of Takhar.
Provincial Governor Ghulam Ghaus Abubakar told journalists they had signed the contract with the Tajik deputy prime minister during his visit to Tajikistan. The representative of the World Bank had also been present.
He said the amount would be channelled through the Ministry of Water and Energy. More than 10,000 acres of land has been washed away by the river over the past four years in that region, the governor said.
Abdul Wadud, head of Darquq District in Takhar, said the rise in water levels had destroyed more than 500 acres of land last year.
He said a vast part of the district would be swept away by the river if the protective wall were not built in the next few years.
The Amu Darya originates in Victoria Lake in the Hindu Kush mountain range and passes through the northern provinces of Badakhshan, Takhar and Konduz. It also separates Afghanistan's north from neighbouring Tajikistan.
Source: BBC Monitoring South Asia
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NATO Afghanistan mission cools Taliban threat
Wednesday April 04, 2007 (0412 PST) PakTribune.com, Pakistan
KANDAHAR: A NATO mission in the southwest of Afghanistan has caught Taliban leaders off guard and diminished the enemy's ability to fight a spring offensive in the area, officials said Saturday after announcing the elimination of several key Taliban leaders.
"We're operating on our terms now," Lt.-Col. Stephane Grenier, a public information officer with NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said in an interview, touting the success of its Operation Achilles.
"We've restricted [the Taliban's] freedom of movement, we've disturbed how they normally do business, we've had them rethink how to resupply themselves," he said, explaining the new mission takes a different approach than some of the others that have gone before.
"There hasn't been a whole lot of fighting, but that's not the point," he said.
"The point is to destabilize the enemy's ability to fight and to conduct destabilizing operations in the ways they traditionally did." The comments come as NATO announced Saturday it has eliminated several key members of the Taliban leadership in recent airstrikes in Helmand province.
Launched in early March, Achilles was intended as a way to secure areas in the northern part of Helmand province, a poppy-rich territory where insurgents have generally had free reign.
Grenier said the ISAF has had to change its approach for this operation because the Taliban has moved further towards an insurgent style of warfare where they're even less eager to engage in open combat than before.
While Grenier was optimistic about the progress in the region, he stopped short of declaring any kind of victory, even short-term.
In a written statement, the commander of NATO's troops in the south of Afghanistan added that he believes the Achilles mission -- which involves 4,500 NATO troops from several nations, including Canada, Britain, the United States, and the Netherlands, as well 1,000 Afghan soldiers -- has "essentially taken the initiative away from insurgents." "The Taliban extremist leadership in the south have been taken off guard by Operation Achilles and are on the defensive at this stage," said Maj.-Gen Ton van Loon. "We have inflicted serious damage to their command and control infrastructure as well as their ability to resupply," he added.
In that same statement, ISAF announced the elimination of several key Taliban leaders as part of Achilles during air strikes of an extremist compound in a remote village in northern Helmand on March 28.
Officials did not release the number of people killed, saying only "several insurgents were killed during the strike including key Taliban leaders." On Saturday, ISAF officials also announced the recent capture or elimination of other Taliban leaders in another areas of the country as well.
In one operation in the Kandahar City region on Friday, ISAF and Afghan forces captured several key Taliban extremists, the statement said.
Among those taken were Bacha Aka and brothers Taj and Raz Mohammed, three men who all reportedly helped to plan last month's failed assassination of Mullah Naqibullah, a respected tribal elder in Kandahar City.
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Canada won't desert Afghanistan, O'Connor says
Bloc MP, protesters question mission's humanitarian value
KAZI STASTNA The Gazette (Montreal, Canada) Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Canadian troops serving in Afghanistan are carrying out a noble and just mission, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor said in a speech in Montreal yesterday, despite shouts to the contrary from some members of the crowd.
Several women stood up soon after O'Connor began addressing audience members, who had paid $90 each to hear him speak at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, unfurled a protest banner and heckled the minister. They were quickly escorted out of the room by police but were not arrested.
O'Connor, who brushed off the protesters as "ankle-biters," was speaking to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations, which is made up of a wide range of groups including corporations like Bombardier and Bell Helicopter, educational institutions, banks, the Montreal police department, unions and community organizations.
The traffic jams and two automated teller machines, installed by a Canadian Forces accountant, that O'Connor saw when he visited Canadian soldiers in Kandahar province three weeks ago are encouraging signs of Afghanistan's progress, he said.
"I saw a dramatic change in that country from the first time I visited just over a year ago," he said. "While security is still a concern in the south ... the situation is definitely improving.
"Life is returning to places that seemed deserted before."
In Kandahar province, about 1,200 Canadian Forces personnel are part of a battle group, while 300 to 400 work as part of the provincial reconstruction team, O'Connor said.
While the minister praised the road construction and basic infrastructure support that team provides to Afghan communities, the 60 or so protesters who gathered outside the hotel before the event accused the minister and the Conservative government of inflating Canada's humanitarian role and the progress made in Afghanistan.
"The line on what they're
doing in Afghanistan changes all the time," said Mostafa Henaway, 27, of the group Block the Empire, which organized the protest along with Echec a la Guerre and the Raging Grannies.
"First it's the war on terror, then it's about redevelopment and democracy and now it's about security - i.e., combat operations."
The protesters denounced the companies that attended yesterday's luncheon as war profiteers with a vested interest in prolonging Canada's mission. They singled out the event's sponsor, SNC Lavalin, which provides logistical support to Canada's military operations, and prior to January, had a division that manufactured ammunition.
O'Connor told reporters the government has made no decision yet beyond commitments already made to continue military operations until 2009 and humanitarian efforts until 2011, but in his speech he left a potentially wider window.
"The government of Canada will support the mission in words and in deeds until the progress in Afghanistan is irreversible," he said.
The protesters weren't the only ones questioning the extent of Canada's humanitarian involvement. Foreign Affairs and Canadian International Development Agency personnel make up only 12 members of the 2,500-member Canadian mission, said Bloc Quebecois MP Claude Bachand, who attended the event.
"It's true that militarily the Canadians are doing good work," he said. "But it's the work of reconstruction and diplomacy that still remains to be done. We absolutely need a change in mission."
Bachand said he saw little evidence of clinics, schools and other alleged Canadian aid efforts during his trip to Afghanistan because he was not allowed to leave the military base.
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Central/South Asia: The Silk Road Runs Through It
By Jan Jun
April 4, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The Silk Road, from the Mediterranean to the Far East, was once among the most important trade routes in the world. It remains an iconic "crossroad" for East-West relations, but the countries it crisscrosses are poorly understood outside the region.
London's Asia House and the British Council organized a recent forum that asked whether Central Asia's heritage can help better inform outsiders about a frequently misunderstood region.
References to the Silk Road inevitably bring to mind the former glory of the great cities along this ancient trade route.
"Hundreds of years ago, the countries of Central and South Asia were very well known to the imaginations of people elsewhere in the world -- really because of the import and export of goods along this network of trade routes that went from China all the way to eastern Mediterranean, from the Far East to Europe," says Emily Campbell, the British Council's head of design and architecture, who chaired the March 29 gathering. "Since then, these countries have fallen into obscurity or the perception of those countries among people in the West has become very skewed."
Campbell says inaccessibility and political obstacles have contributed to the region's isolation. Many of the old Silk Road countries were under Russian or Soviet rule until 1991.
Word Travels Fast
Campbell says those countries have now emerged from that situation.
In an age when information travels so much faster than cargo, visual cues for distant lands can be important. The region is flush with them -- from the 4,000 intricately woven pieces of Kazakhstan's "Golden Man" suit, to the Persian blue tiles reminiscent of lapis lazuli, or the carpets of Bukhara. Architectural treasures include Samarkand's mausoleum of Tamerlane (Timur) the Citadel of Herat, and countless others.
But can such imagery translate into tourism and trade revenues?
Observers say the concepts of a modern identity and how to project it outside the region are a hot topic in Central Asia.
Alismer Faizullaiev, a professor at Tashkent's University of World Economy and Diplomacy, calls elements of national identity -- like national heroes, languages or linguistic mixes, and common history -- "identifiers."
He points out that identity is a social constant and can be chosen, altered, or even manipulated by political regimes. But he says there is also a need for modern identifiers.
"We are very proud of our history, culture, and identity," Faizullaiev says, "but at the same time it's important to go [forward], not just look back. And I believe that [in] the branding of [the] Uzbek nation -- or any other nations, like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, etc. -- it's important to bring together two parts -- something from the past and something from the future."
Faizullaev argues that an important aspect of all Silk Road nations is that their specific identities can be explained by what he calls "crossroadness."
The term recognizes former trade-nation status -- including being shaped, in part, by their constant trade contacts.
The British Council's Campbell agrees that there is a need for modern identity "pointers." She says they can be based on tradition -- for example, typical ornamental patterns in textile design or in applied arts and crafts.
Campbell called architecture one of the most "visible" new identity pointers. Well-preserved ancient buildings, palaces, or mosques hold great attraction. But she says there are also striking modern buildings, for instance in Kazakhstan.
"Sir Norman Foster, one of our own architects, has just built this Center for World Peace in Astana, which is an astonishing building," Campbell says. "Architecture will undoubtedly be part of our campaign. And I anticipate that some of that will be to do with the idea of regeneration -- the idea of making the old into something new, into some kind of contemporary proposition, which Britain and indeed many countries in Europe are very, very good at doing."
Rory Stewart is a best-selling travel writer and director of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation to preserve local buildings and traditional crafts in Kabul. He has walked extensively in the Silk Road region -- including tracing the Afghan exploits of the founder (Babur) of India's Moghul Empire for his widely praised book, "The Places In Between."
Stewart agrees that the term "Old Silk Road" remains the best identity pointer for the region and should be revived. He points out that in the old days, it was the cities that mattered most on the old route.
"The idea of nationhood there is relatively recent," Stewart says. "The distinction between these countries was really the distinction between cities, not between states. Afghanistan itself, of course, largely came into being in the late 18th century."
Stewart describes Kabul as an old trading city that desperately needs more investment to become an identity symbol, but he remains hopeful that much can be accomplished.
In Bukhara in southwestern Uzbekistan, for instance, the number of visitors has doubled to 420,000 a year. That rise owes much to investment attracted over the past six years due to the fame of the Old Silk Road.
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Spanish base in Afghanistan attacked with projectiles; no injuries
The Associated Press Tuesday, April 3, 2007
MADRID, Spain: Two projectiles were fired at a Spanish peacekeeping base in Afghanistan, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday. No one was hurt and there was no damage.
The attack occurred Monday night near the town of Herat and one of the two missiles hit 200 meters (655 feet) from the outside fence while the other struck some 3 kilometers (nearly 2 miles) from the base without causing any damage, the ministry said.
Spain has about 600 peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan.
In February, an attack on a Spanish military convoy in Afghanistan killed a female soldier and wounded two other troops.
A Peruvian soldier serving with Spanish forces in Afghanistan was killed in an attack on a Spanish convoy in western Afghanistan last year.
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Pak says it wants a stable Afghanistan
[3 Apr, 2007 1503hrs IST PTI ]
NEW DELHI: Denying Afghan President Hamid Karzai's allegation that it was aiding the resurgence of Taliban, Pakistan on Tuesday said the problems faced by Afghanistan and solutions remained within that country.
"If there is any country which wants a strong, stable and peaceful Afghanistan, it is Pakistan," Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said here on the sidelines of the SAARC summit.
He said whenever Afghanistan plunges into turmoil; Pakistan pays the "biggest price" for it and referred to the influx of three million refugees from that country during the Soviet occupation.
"We have done a lot to help Afghanistan. We will continue to do so. It is in Afghanistan's interest and in the interest of Pakistan to have a peaceful Afghanistan," he said.
"We believe that the problems of Afghanistan and its solutions lie within Afghanistan," he said when asked about Karzai's comments that Pakistan was aiding the resurgence of Taliban to make his country a colony of Islamabad.
Aziz said talks were on between the two countries for the return of the Afghan refugees staying in camps in Pakistan and there is an agreement between Karzai and himself on the issue.
"The three million refugees must gradually return as their presence is prejudicial to Afghan security and ours also," he said observing there could be certain elements in the camps over which none of the two countries have control.
He also spoke about stepping up patrolling along the borders between the two countries and asked Afghan Army and other forces to man the borders more effectively. "We have been doing it and I would like them to do the same," he said.
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AFGHANISTAN: US AND EU ANTI-DRUG STRATEGIES ARE DIVERGING
Richard Weitz 4/03/07 EurasiaNet.org
Hoping to stem burgeoning narcotics production and trafficking in Afghanistan, the Bush administration has established a "drug czar" for the country. However, the administration’s choice for the post, Thomas A. Schweich, has provoked criticism on Capitol Hill. The US move comes as European Union nations are pondering a radically different approach – the legalization of poppy production in Afghanistan.
The creation of the drug czar post, formally known as the Coordinator of Counter-Narcotics and Justice Reform in Afghanistan, was announced in late March. For Schweich, his new responsibilities do not seem to differ much from his former job -- principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement at the State Department.
In recent months, members of Congress and US policy analysts urged the administration to improve coordination of US anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan. Existing US programs, according to many inside the Beltway, are failing to curb narcotics cultivation and exports, and thus are helping to fan the Taliban insurgency and raise the threat of spreading instability across Central Asia. In a letter sent to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, members of Congress blamed inter-agency rivalries and the lack of close international coordination for the failing anti-drug efforts.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, total poppy production in Afghanistan increased by 49 percent in 2006, and accounted for about 90 percent of the global opium supply. Since the ouster of the Taliban from power in Kabul in late 2001, the area under poppy cultivation has risen from roughly 8,000 hectares to an estimated 165,000 hectares.
Much of the expansion has occurred in the country’s southern provinces, which have experienced a revival of the Taliban insurgency. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Zalmai Afzali, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Counter Narcotics, has admitted publicly that the expected record opium harvest this year is a likely harbinger of more aggressive action by the Taliban. In addition, Afghan drug trafficking helps to reinforce local warlords and criminal organizations at the expense of the already weak central government of President Hamid Karzai.
Many on Capitol Hill had hoped for the appointment of a higher-profile drug czar, rather than Schweich, who is seen as a diplomat with comparatively little experience and authority. Only a widely known individual with abundant prestige would possess the level of influence needed to compel various government agencies to cooperate on anti-drug measures, members of Congress indicated in their letter.
Schweich has set the ambitious goal of doubling the number of provinces free from opium production by the end of this year from the existing six to 12. At the same time, he acknowledged that expected progress in northern Afghanistan could be offset by increased opium production in southern Afghanistan. It will take a minimum of five years to turn the corner on eradication efforts in southern Afghanistan, he added.
Representatives of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force claim that the Taliban has been trafficking in drugs in order to fund recruitment and training efforts. Other analysts accuse Afghan civil servants, police, and army personnel of accepting bribes to allow the cultivation and shipment of narcotics. This rampant corruption has limited the ability of the Karzai government to implement an effective anti-narcotics program.
Among the main challenges facing Schweich are: promoting a reduction of narcotics-related corruption within the Afghan bureaucracy; improving coordination among US and Afghan government agencies; managing relations between the Bush administration and a Democrat-controlled Congress; and fostering improved cooperation between the United States and EU on a regional anti-drug program.
At present, tension is hampering joint US-Afghan action. The Bush administration favors aerial spraying as an eradication technique, and views the Afghan government’s preferred method -- beating the heads of the poppy plants with sticks -- as ineffective and inefficient. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reports that crop destruction has been disproportionately directed towards poor farmers who lack assets and influence, while wealthy major producers escape enforcement through bribery or intimidation. In light of these problems, US officials have pressured Karzai to permit aerial spraying.
With the support of Great Britain and other EU countries, however, Karzai has blocked moves to spray poppy fields, arguing that doing so would enrage a large number of rural Afghans who are dependent on poppy production, and thus greatly expand grassroots support for the Taliban.
Meanwhile, it seems that the United States and EU are heading in different directions in their efforts to contain Afghan drug production. While the creation of the US drug czar is seen as a precursor to a toughened anti-drug response, leading EU nations are now seriously considering endorsing the legalization of poppy production, as well as the implementation of a program to buy opiates directly from Afghan farmers. According to reports in London on April 3, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has ordered a review of Britain’s anti-drug policy for Afghanistan. German, French and Italian officials are also reportedly open to a drastic policy overhaul.
Under one plan now being studied by EU experts, poppy production would be legalized and state-sanctioned agents would buy the opiates directly from farmers, then resell the crop to pharmaceutical companies for use in pain medications and related products.
News of the possible change in the EU’s position already has produced shock and rage from within the Bush administration. Whether or not the ideas currently under consideration in EU capitals are ever translated into action depend on several yet-to-be-determined factors. For example, experts and officials are still debating what the effect of legalization would be on Afghan poppy production -- would such a move merely encourage Afghan farmers to expand the amount of land devoted to poppy cultivation, or would it promote a greater sense of security, prompting Afghans to explore other methods of income generation? Whatever the outcome of the EU debate, it would seem that Schweich will be hard-pressed to promote US-EU unity on a regional counter-narcotics plan.
Editor’s Note: Richard Weitz is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.
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Afghan MPs disapprove of Pakistani TV transmitter donation
Text of report by Afghan independent Tolo TV on 1 April
[Presenter] Pakistan will donate a TV transmitter to help expand Afghanistan National Television broadcasts in Kandahar Province. Addressing a gathering at the headquarters of Pakistani state-run television, the Pakistani minister of information said his country was interested in helping the media in Afghanistan.
[Correspondent] A number of cultural personalities and MPs say the move demonstrates Pakistani double standards towards Afghanistan.
[Qadria Yazdan Parast, MP, Kabul Province] Pakistan has been trying hard to strengthen a state-run institution, but imposes limitations on independent and free media sources in Afghanistan.
[Najiba Sharif, MP, Kabul Province, in Pashto] Pakistan has always demonstrated double standards in its policies towards Afghanistan. This is an effort, which costs very little, to solve the problems and tension between the two countries.
[Fahim Dashti, spokesman, national union of Afghan journalists] All the cooperation and assistance that Pakistan has so far offered, and may offer in the future, is aimed at hiding the evil plans of that country. I do not see good intentions behind the Pakistani donation.
[Correspondent] Din Mohammad Mobarez Rashedi, the deputy minister of information and culture for broadcasts, says Afghanistan very warmly receives assistance from all the neighbouring countries. He says Afghanistan believes in the freedom of the media and has therefore not imposed any limitations on Pakistani media sources active in Afghanistan. He added that the ministry had not yet made a decision on whether Afghan and Pakistani media sources should work [in each other's countries] in the light of their constitutions [as given].
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Afghanistan police to get RCMP help, Day pledges
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- Canada is sending 12 more RCMP officers to train Afghan police and will encourage Pakistan to do more to prevent Taliban insurgents from crossing the border, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said yesterday.
During a quick visit to Kandahar, the minister shook hands with Afghan National Police officers and pledged Canada's continued support to make their country more secure. Mr. Day said he will go to Islamabad to urge senior Pakistani government officials there to stop the flow of insurgents into Afghanistan.
"We are making it very clear that we want everything done that is possible to be done to stop Taliban from coming across the border, killing our troops and killing the children and the innocent citizens of Afghanistan," Mr. Day said.
He wouldn't say who he will be meeting in Pakistan, or when. The new Mounties who are being sent will bring the total number of Canadian military, and civilian, police officers in Afghanistan to 36.
They will provide weapons training and teach Afghan National Police officers how to properly check vehicles and what to do in the aftermath of a roadside bomb explosion.
Mr. Day was accompanied on his visit by Vic Toews, president of the Treasury Board, and Helena Guergis, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
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Fencing, mining of Pak-Afghan border: Canada yet to come up with substitute
Daily Times (Pakistan)
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani and Canadian officials discussed on Monday the fencing and mining of Pak-Afghan border, with the latter yet to come up with concrete suggestions to convince Pakistan to abandon the plan.
The talks were part of the first round of Pak-Canada bilateral consultations and focused on bilateral, regional and international issues.
The Pakistani delegation was led by Americas Additional Secretary Shahid Kamal, while the Canadian side was led by Canadian Foreign Affairs and International Trade Department Director General Randolpk Mank.
The two sides also exchanged views on Afghanistan, including the measures Pakistan had taken for strengthening security on its border with Afghanistan and repatriation of Afghan refugees.
According to the Foreign Office, there were discussions on the follow-up to the visit of the Canadian assessment team on border control and management issues.
Earlier, during his visit to Pakistan in January 2007, Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay had opposed the mining of Pak-Afghan border and had offered Pakistan modern techniques to setup an effective border control system. Later, a Canadian assessment team visited Pakistan but the details of the proposals were not shared with the media.
Analysts had expected that Canada would propose Pakistan measures to improve security on its border with Afghanistan during the bilateral consultations but apparently nothing like that transpired in the meeting on Monday. However, both sides reaffirmed their commitment to work together to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan.
In addition to Afghanistan and border security, the two sides also exchanged views on non-proliferation, disarmament and counter-terrorism capacity building.
“The talks focused on strengthening bilateral economic relations, including proposals to enhance trade and investment links and energy cooperation between the two countries. Measures to deepen cooperation in the fields of security, education, science and technology and culture were also discussed,” said the FO.
Both sides underscored the importance they attached to building a broad-based relationship marked by multifaceted cooperation in different fields and agreed to work towards reinforcing cooperation in mutually agreed areas through intensified bilateral interaction. It was also agreed that the next round of bilateral consultations will be held in Ottawa on mutually agreed dates.
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Kidnapped German seeks Afghan withdrawal
By LEE KEATH, Associated Press Writer Tue Apr 3, 2:22 PM ET
CAIRO, Egypt - An insurgent group in Iraq posted a video showing a kidnapped German woman and son weeping and pleading for help as the group gave Germany 10 more days to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan or else the hostages would be killed.
In the video, Hannelore Marianne Krause, and her adult son, Sinan, were sitting on the floor in front of a green backdrop. Krause, 61, wearing a headscarf and speaking in German, begged her two other children, who live in Germany, to "do anything" to save her and Sinan.
"You know that the demands are that the German army leave Afghanistan or else we will be killed, me and your brother," she said, according to Arabic subtitles. "You could go to the newspapers or organize demonstrations. You could take any steps in any way at all to help us."
"Please, please. Anything that comes to mind, any idea, I can't think of any more. I'm so very afraid," she said. "Only a few days are left to us."
Several times, she broke down in tears, unable to speak and pressing her palms to her face. "If we can't see each other again, I wish all the best for you and all good things," she sobbed.
Sinan — sitting silently with his arms wrapped around his knees — also wept, burying his face in his hands.
The 5-minute video, posted late Monday on an Islamic militant Web forum, was signed by the insurgent group "Arrows of Righteousness," which first claimed to have snatched the two in a video issued on March 10. In that video, the group threatened to kill them in 10 days unless German troops withdrew from Afghanistan. That deadline expired with no withdrawal of the troops.
In the latest video, a voiceover in Arabic by an unseen militant said the group was giving "the German government 10 more days to begin removing its forces from Afghanistan. Otherwise we will kill this criminal woman and her son." The video was first reported by the Washington-based SITE Institute, which monitors extremist messages.
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said that ministry experts evaluated the video, but he declined to give any details of their assessment.
"It is bitter to have to watch two people being humiliated in front of a camera," Jaeger told reporters in Berlin. "We are greatly concerned about the fate of the two hostages, and we are still working very hard so that the two can return to their families."
German officials have not said what the mother and son were doing in Iraq, where they disappeared on Feb. 6.
In the video, Krause said she worked for the Austrian Embassy in Baghdad, and the voiceover by the militant said her son works for the Iraqi Foreign Ministry.
Germany, which opposed the war in Iraq, has some 3,000 soldiers serving in NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, largely in the relatively calm north. On Monday, Germany dispatched six Tornado fighter jets to Afghanistan, where they will fly reconnaissance missions.
"I call on the German people to help me in my difficult situation. Germany was safe before it joined the United States in this devilish coalition against so-called terrorism," Krause said in German in the video."
"What terrorism? Did the Afghans attack Berlin or destroy its industries? Has any Muslim detonated a bomb in Germany? Why do our politicians want us to be victims in a war that has nothing to do with us?" she said. "I will become the first victim if you do not meet the demands of these men."
She said her two other children, a son and daughter, live in the German city of Dortmund. Last month, Krause's husband, Mohamed al-Tornachi, and Sinan's wife issued a videotaped statement, aired on German and Arab television, pleading with the insurgents to free the two.
Last May, two German engineers were freed in Iraq after 99 days in captivity there. Another German was released after three weeks in December 2005.
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Slovak peacekeeping troops reported to be moving south in Afghanistan
People's Daily Online, China
Slovak troops in Afghanistan have started moving south from Kabul in response to a request from NATO, reports from Slovakia said on Tuesday.
The first part of a military engineering unit have left Kabul by aircraft for Kandahar, a key front of NATO peace-keeping troops' fighting with the Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan, Pravda, a Slovak daily, quoted a source close to the military as saying.
The unit's equipment was transported in convoys, it added.
The Slovak Defence Ministry refused to comment on the mobilization.
"We will not comment on the move of the soldiers to a camp near Kandahar due to security reasons," Defense Ministry spokesman Vladimir Gemela said.
Last year, NATO demanded that Slovakia deploy its troops in the turbulent south of Afghanistan.
Around 60 Slovak soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force.
The commanders of the Taliban have claimed that they had prepared 10,000 fighters including 2,000 suicide bombers to speed up their attacks against Afghan and foreign forces based in Afghanistan.
Recently, the attacks have been more frequent in the mountainous areas in the south than in the relatively calmer north.
The Slovak government approved the transfer of the troops to southern Afghanistan in late February on condition that they will not operate only in the air base.
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MoU on small development projects
KABUL, Apr 2 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Officials of the Indian embassy and the Ministry of Economy on Monday signed specific memorandum of understandings (MoUs) on 16 projects in nine provinces of the country.
According to a press release issued here, the Ministry of Economy has been nominated as the 'nodal' agency for coordinating the projects on behalf of the Afghan government in implementation of the MoUs.
The government of India, in consultation with the line ministries and the Ministry of Economy, had identified 16 projects in the fields of agriculture, public health and rural rehabilitation and development covering the provinces of Nangarhar, Khost, Nuristan, Kunar, Paktia, Badakhshan, Nimroz, Paktika and Zabul.
In phase II, the next batch of projects will be taken up in the fields of education, vocational training, public health, rural rehabilitation and development and agriculture.
The agreement to start small development projects worth $20 million was signed during Indian prime minister's visit to Afghanistan in August 2005.
The scheme is part of Indias overall $750 million reconstruction programme for Afghanistan, says the press release.
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Germany sets aside interest on loan
KABUL, Apr 2 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Germany has written off over $6 million interest on its $44.1 million loan to Afghanistan.
Agreement to this effect was signed between Finance Minister Anwarul Haq Ahadi and German ambassador to Afghanistan on Tuesday.
The interest rate on the loan was about five per cent a year, said the Finance Minister. He added the loan would also be written off if Afghanistan successfully implemented the International Monitory Fund (IMF) three-year programme.
The programme includes, bringing reforms in the country's finance system and consulting IMF in financial matters, like increase in income, reduction in expenditures and introduction of administrative reforms.
He added the write off of $105 million American loan was also depended on Afghanistan's successful implementation of the programme, as agreed with the Paris Club.
According to Ahadi, the total loan received by Afghanistan over the past years is amounting to $11.9 billion.
Dr. Hans Ulrich Seidt, German ambassador to Kabul, said if Afghanistan failed in successful implementation of the IMF programme, it would have to return the loan in the coming 23 years.
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New draft presented in lower house
KABUL, Apr 2 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Administrative body of the lower house of parliament on Monday presented a draft proposal before the House regarding enhancement in its working capacity.
Speaker of the lower house Mohammad Younus Qanuni, while presenting the five-page document before the MPs, said besides capacity building, the draft also included subjects like national security, elimination of poverty, provision of employment, and fight against corruption and drugs.
The new draft would help MPs in better monitoring of the government activities and approval of laws.
"I am sure implementation of the draft would help remove the wrong impression that MPs are doing nothing," the speaker observed.
However, some MPs were sceptible about the usefulness of the draft. Sardar Mohammad Rahman, one of the MPs, was of the view that implementation of such strategies had no meaning in a country where there was no social justice.
Rahman said: "We write several matters on ice and put it under the sun."
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Opinion: Need to reinvent the madressahs
Dawn (Pakistan) 1 April 2007 - By Kunwar Idris
THE Taliban fighters are citizens of Afghanistan but almost all of them, including their supreme commander Mullah Omar, are former pupils of madressahs in Pakistan. In addition, they are all Pashtuns and Sunnis of the hard, orthodox variety. The indoctrination they received at the madressahs has been reinforced by bonds of ethnicity and religion with tribes living along the undemarcated Durand Line or straddling it.
The charge against Pakistan of harbouring insurgents or “not doing enough” to curb their movement tends to stick despite official denials because our madressahs and their political patrons continue to teach and preach that the Taliban are not terrorists but jihadis.
The insurgency in Afghanistan seems set to run a long course and there is little that Pakistan can do to quell it except to guard its own frontiers and persuade its own tribes not to get involved. Pakistan, however, can do a great deal more to transform its madressahs into institutions which produce scholars and teachers and not bigots and fighters as most do. In fact the way of life the Taliban militia represents is fast gaining ground in Pakistan’s tribal areas. It has its outposts all over, even in the capital of the country. The madressahs may be producing storm troopers for sectarian parties and audiences for their meetings but no scholars.
The government effort should be directed not at modernising madressahs but to make them as they used to be in the mediaeval times of Muslim glory. As a place of learning in more recent times the institution of madressahs has glorious antecedents in the Indian subcontinent.
Col William Sleeman, (known for the suppression of thugs in central India) on a visit to Delhi during the reign of Bahadur Shah Zafar a few years before the 1857 uprising noted that Indian youth at the madressahs learned “through the medium of Arabic and Persian languages what young men in our colleges learn through those of Greek and Latin – that is grammar, rhetoric and logic. After his seven years of study the young Mohammadan binds his turban upon a head almost as well filled with the things which appertain to these branches as the young man raw from Oxford – he will talk as fluently about Socrates and Plato, Hippocrates, Galen and Avicenna, and what is much to his advantage the languages in which he has learnt what he knows are those which he most requires through life.”
It was a network of such madressahs that compelled Col Sleeman to observe that “perhaps there are few communities in the world among whom education is more generally diffused than among Mohammadans in India”.
Imagine, he said it just 150 years ago. The founders of the famous Deoband Darul Ulum established in 1867 were alumni of the madressahs and schools of Delhi. The goal they set was to preserve the teachings of faith under a non-Muslim rule but adopted the institutional forms derived from the places where they themselves were educated with the difference that Urdu instead of Persian or Arabic was used as the language of instruction.
It seems the first rector and spiritual guide of the Darul Ulum, Mohammad Qasim Nanautwai, and its first chancellor, Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, planned to run this pioneering institution on the lines of the madressahs at Delhi. However, under the influence of the reformist movement of Shah Waliullah and Syed Ahmad Barelvi, Deoband became a centre only of religious education, though of a very high order, and in the course of time became rigidly doctrinal and also got involved in national politics.
In the freedom movement the majority of its faculty led by Hussain Ahmad Madani opposed the partition and saw Pakistan “as a creation of the westernised forces and an enforced confinement of Muslim influence.” Some lesser figures like Shabbir Ahmad Usmani and Ehtishamul Haq Thanvi, however, supported Jinnah and came over to Pakistan.
Pakistan’s madressah education, by and large, represents the doctrine, culture and politics of Deoband and the Taliban are its product. The efforts of the government to register the madressahs and model their syllabi on the lines of the nineteenth-century madressahs of Delhi (which prompted Col Sleeman to equate them with Oxford) have so far made little headway and no impact at all. The money thrown at them will not transform their pupils from fighters to professionals engaged in peaceful, productive pursuits.
The number of madressahs in the country is roughly put at 16,000 but could be higher. The investment in their courses and faculties should be directed only at the larger ones among them. Small madressahs attached to mosques in rural areas and in urban slums shall have to be treated differently.
For the large madressahs (some are said to have up to 10,000 students on their rolls) the government should establish an autonomous university on the pattern of Cairo’s al-Azhar which is, undisputedly, the greatest mosque-university in the world and a centre of Islamic culture and religious learning.
In a millennium of existence it has extended its range of research and instruction to cover the Fatimid, Ismaili Shia, Shafi and Hanafi doctrines. Besides theology it imparts instructions in law, languages and the social sciences.
Al-Azhar examines nearly 200,000 students every year. Its campus in the heart of Cairo draws students from almost every Muslim country in the thousands. The standards for enrolment are so exacting that very few students reared in Pakistan’s madressahs are able to get in and fewer still leave with a degree or certificate.
The graduates of the madressahs affiliated with Pakistan’s own version of al-Azhar should be treated at par with the graduates from the secular universities for jobs in the government and private sectors. Dr Attaur Rehman should be persuaded to earmark one of the six world-class universities he has in mind for religious (not just Islamic) learning in collaboration with the 1,000-year old al-Azhar.
Small madressahs are numerous, keep multiplying and attract pupils only because they are free and accessible. Alhamd, a poor locality of Lahore, is reported to have four free madressahs but only one government school and that is crowded.
In Karachi’s Lyari town, seven government primary and secondary schools are housed in one building. According to Hamida Khuhro, Sindh’s education minister, 50 per cent of the children of the province have no schools to go to. The fee of private schools being beyond their means, the parents send their children to a free madressah rather than roam the streets.
Registering madressahs or putting them on dole would neither stop terrorism nor improve standards or access to education. The gap between the rich and poor is widening in money terms but widening much faster in education. The generations to come are thus condemned to live a life of degrading poverty and extremist violence.
To curb extremism generated in the madressahs and on the streets the government should consider: spending a substantial portion of the millions of dollars pledged by the US for madressah reforms in establishing a university rivalling al-Azhar; increase the expenditure on education from the two to four per cent of GDP; put half of zakat collection into a national fund for books, meals and clothing for children living below the poverty line; and bind private schools by law to admit 10 per cent poor students on merit basis.
Having said all that in hope, cynicism instantly takes over. Who has the time or the will to build new schools or reclaim old ones encroached or crumbling down in an age of mega projects and high spending? The murmur in the education departments is all about the jobs of teachers being apportioned by ministers and chief ministers to their relatives, friends or flatterers.
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New training course for ANP in north
MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Apr 1 (Pajhwok Afghan News): German experts are going to launch a new phase of training to the Afghan National Police (ANP) in the northern provinces.
During the new phase, policemen will be trained on how to deal with the people and complainants, provision of immediate assistance, dealing of various cases and searching of houses and vehicles.
P Johnson, a German expert, told a news conference on Sunday about 30 German (police) experts would impart training to the policemen. He said it was a huge task and they wanted to train the Afghan personnel on all the necessary techniques of modern policing.
He said 40 police personnel would be imparted training during the current phase.
Germany had trained about 1,500 police personnel last year in the northern provinces, including Balkh, Samangan, Faryab, Jawzjan, Baghlan, Kunduz and Takhar.
According to the Bonn Agreement of 2001, Germany will impart training to Afghan policemen. According to the government, over 60,000 policemen have so far been trained.
Ahmad Naim Qadiri
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