Business Recorder;
Apr 5, 2002

'World should focus on poverty alleviation in Afghanistan'

ISLAMABAD : The Minister for KANA and SAFRON, Abbas Sarfaraz Khan, has said that the international community should focus on poverty alleviation programmes in rural areas of Afghanistan as 85 percent people live in villages and have no basic facilities due to some ethnic problems.

He said this while talking to a European Union delegation led by the Union's Special Representative to Afghanistan, Dr Klaus Peter Klaiber who called on him here on Thursday to discuss return of Afghan refugees, reconstruction of Afghanistan, future political and development activities in that country and other related issues.

He said that the de-mining operation be activated at a large scale and the Afghan people should be engaged in development activities as community participation concept. The minister cited the example of successful community participation by the Agha Khan Rural Support Programme and setting up of village councils for rural development in Northern Areas of Pakistan. He said that local communities have been involved for the development activities to achieve the desired results and to reduce poverty. He said that such rural development programmes might be replicated in Afghanistan.

The minister said that the Afghan people have high expectations with the international community and the commitments should be forthcoming.

REFUGEES: Talking about the Afghan refugees in Pakistan and their repatriation, Sarfaraz said that there are 3.3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, living in urban areas and camps. He said that during last three months around 100,000 Afghan have voluntarily gone back from the urban areas of Pakistan.

He said that security, peace and participation of people in development and other positive activities are interlinked with successful repatriation otherwise they will come back to the neighbouring countries.

The voluntarily repatriation process will formally start after signing of a tripartite agreement in next couple of weeks. He said that Pakistan and the UNHCR have decided that half million refugees will go back this year from Pakistan.

"The Pak-Afghan borders are officially closed, as security of the country is paramount," he said, adding "Pakistani authorities have conducted a major operation against the terrorists".

The minister said that Pakistan is also a victim of terrorism and would not support and allow such activities.

He said that Pakistan and Afghanistan have reiterated during President Musharraf's visit to Afghanistan that both would not allow the use of their territories against anyone. The minister said that Pakistan would assist Afghanistan and provide maximum financial and technical support for its reconstruction.

Dr Klaus-Peter Klaiber said that the Union's policy in Afghanistan "is to promote peace and stability by supporting the Bonn process".

"The EU believes in regional stability through renewed good relations between Afghanistan, Pakistan and its neighbours."

He said that the EU has announced 500 million euro for reconstruction of Afghanistan for the year 2002 and already announced 35 million euro for rural rehabilitation. The international community will fulfil its pledges.

Dr Klaiber said that the international community was very pleased with the good relation between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

All Material Subject to Copyright