Sunday, February 15, 2009

Zardari orders prompt payment of money to terror victims

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari called on the NWFP government on Sunday to immediately hand over compensation cheques to families of victims of terrorism, after the federal government yesterday released Rs 283 million for FATA and another Rs 340 million for NWFP for this purpose.

“My office should be kept posted with the progress on a daily basis,” said the president soon after the funds were released in line with Zardari’s announcement during a recent visit to NWFP to compensate the families of victims of suicide bombings. Relatives of each dead person will get Rs 300,000, while families of those injured will get Rs 100,000.

“Now that the funds have already been transferred to the provincial government, it is important the money is disbursed properly without delay,” said Zardari.

The president said although the sums being handed out were meagre and could not compensate for the loss and sufferings of victims’ families, it reflected the government’s will not to abandon the affected people and the administration’s determination to fight the war on terror. Zardari said that rehabilitation of victims’ families was not only a moral responsibility for the government, but also an essential component of the fight on terror.

He said that he had been raising the issue with world leaders and international bodies, and expressed the hope the world community would also step forward to play its role in compensating and rehabilitating the victims of terrorism.

“Those who refused to bow down and died and suffered while standing up in the war on terror are our national heroes and heroines who must be honoured ... they will be,” said the president.

US to include Afghans in review
Afghanistan will send a team to the US to take part in a major policy review of the region, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has announced.In a joint news conference with the new US envoy in the region, Richard Holbrooke, Mr Karzai said he was "very thankful" to be involved in the talks.In recent weeks US officials have been critical of Mr Karzai's leadership.US President Barack Obama, who regards Afghanistan as a priority, accused his government of being "very detached".The BBC's Martin Patience, in Kabul, says Mr Karzai and Mr Holbrooke appeared keen to smooth over any apparent discord at the news conference on Sunday.But our correspondent says it is widely thought that Mr Karzai is no longer popular in the White House - and it may take more than a news conference to change that perception.
Civilian deaths
Mr Holbrooke said he hoped at least one senior US official would be in Afghanistan every month "to find ways to improve our joint effort".Meanwhile, Mr Karzai said he had requested permission to send a delegation to the US as part of Obama government's review."I'm very very thankful that President Obama has accepted my proposal of Afghanistan joining the strategic review of the war against terrorism in the United States," Mr Karzai said.The Afghan leader also said that "very specific measures" had been agreed between Nato, the US and his government to prevent civilian casualties.
According to UN figures 1,800 civilians died in the conflict between January to October last year.
Taleban militants and local warlords were blamed for about 1,000 of the fatalities.
US and Nato forces were held responsible for 700 deaths, mainly through air strikes.
Inherited 'mess'.Mr Holbrooke, the new envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, has also visited Pakistan as part of his tour - but has so far made only brief statements.
He said earlier he was in the region to "listen and learn".
Before his trip, Mr Holbrooke said Afghanistan would be "much tougher" than Iraq and he had not "seen anything like the mess we have inherited".During talks with Pakistani leaders, reports say the envoy stressed Washington's financial commitments to the country but underlined the need to purge militant safe havens in the north-west region, along the Afghan border.Analysts say Mr Holbrooke will be a key player in a renewed effort to reverse the deteriorating security situation on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.Mr Holbrooke is expected to visit India later.