US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton is suggesting that Pakistan’s government has squandered chances to kill or capture al-Qaida leaders.
She made the remark in an interview yesterday with Pakistani journalists during a trip to the city of Lahore. She later flew to the capital, Islamabad, for talks with army chief and additional meetings.
Clinton said al-Qaida has used Pakistan as a haven since 2002. She said she finds it hard to believe that nobody in Pakistan’s government knows where the leaders of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network are hiding.
She also said she finds it hard to believe that Pakistani authorities couldn’t “get them” if they wanted to.
Clinton said that Pakistan had little choice but to take a more aggressive approach to combating the Pakistani Taliban and other insurgents that threaten to destabilize the country.
With the country reeling from Wednesday’s devastating bombing that killed at least 105 people in Peshawar, Clinton engaged in an intense give-and-take with students at the Government College of Lahore, insisting that inaction by the government would have ceded ground to terrorists.
“If you want to see your territory shrink, that’s your choice,” she said, adding that she believed it would be a bad choice.
Dozens of students rushed to line up for the microphone when the session began. Their questions were not hostile, but showed a strong sense of doubt that the U.S. can be a reliable and trusted partner for Pakistan.
Clinton met with the students on the second day of a three-day visit to Pakistan, her first as secretary of state. The Peshawar bombing, set off in a market crowded with women and children, appeared timed to overshadow her arrival. It was the deadliest attack in Pakistan since 2007.
Clinton likened Pakistan’s situation — with Taliban forces taking over substantial swaths of land in the Swat valley and in areas along the Afghan border — to a theoretical advance of terrorists into the United States from across the Canadian border.
It would be unthinkable, she said, for the U.S. government to decide, “Let them have Washington (state)” first, then Montana, then the sparsely populated Dakotas, because those states are far from the major centers of population and power on the East Coast.
Clinton was responding to a student who suggested that Washington was forcing Pakistan to use military force on its own territory. It was one of several questions from the students that raised doubts about the relationship between the United States and Pakistan.
During her hour-long appearance at the college, Clinton stressed that a key purpose of her three-day visit to Pakistan, which began Wednesday, was to reach out to ordinary Pakistanis and urge a better effort to bridge differences and improve mutual understanding.
“We are now at a point where we can chart a different course,” she said, referring to past differences over an absence of democracy in Pakistan and Pakistani association with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
As a way of repudiating past U.S. policies toward Pakistan, Clinton told the students “there is a huge difference” between the Obama administration’s approach and that of former President George W. Bush.
“I spent my entire eight years in the Senate opposing him,” she said to a burst of applause from the audience of several hundred students. “So, to me, it’s like daylight and dark.”
Although Clinton said she was making a priority of engaging frankly and openly on her visit, she declined to talk about a subject that has stirred some of the strongest feelings of anti-Americanism here — U.S. drone aircraft attacks against extremist targets on the Pakistan side of the Afghan border.
The Obama administration routinely refuses to acknowledge publicly that the attacks are taking place.
“There is a war going on,” she said, and the U.S. wants to help Pakistan be successful.
The drone attacks have killed a number of Pakistani civilians, while also reportedly succeeding in eliminating some high-level Taliban and other extremist group leaders.
At the same time, though, the U.S. has been providing Pakistani commanders with video images and target information from its military drones as Pakistan’s army pushes its ground offensive in Waziristan, U.S. officials said earlier this week.
Also sensitive is the way the U.S. has handled millions of dollars in aid to the Pakistani military. The U.S. in recent months has rushed helicopters and other military equipment to the country as Islamabad has launched its counterinsurgency offensives in Swat Valley and South Waziristan.
The administration sped the delivery of 10 Mi-17 troop transport helicopters starting in June, and in July sent 200 night vision goggles, nearly more than 9,000 sets of body armor, several hundred radios and other equipment.
“We’ve put military assistance to Pakistan on a wartime footing,” Lt. Col. Mark Wright, a Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday. “We are doing everything within our power to assist Pakistan in improving its counterinsurgency capability.”
This year the Pentagon plans to spend more than $500 million on arms and equipment for Islamabad as well as training Pakistan’s military in counterinsurgency tactics. Still, Pakistani officials last month complained that Congress attached too many conditions to the surge in aid.
Before flying to Lahore from Islamabad, Clinton visited the Bari Imam shrine, named after Shah Abdul Latif Kazmi, a 17th century Sufi saint who died in 1705 and later came to be known as the patron saint of Islamabad. A suicide bomber struck the shrine in May 2005, killing a number of people.
Substance Abuse Becoming Thing Of Concern -Odu
Rivers State Deputy Governor, Prof. Ngozi Nma Odu, has lauded the important role pharmacists play in the wellbeing of the society.
Odu gave this commendation while playing host to members of Association of Lady Pharmacists of Nigeria, Rivers State Branch at the Government House in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The deputy governor said while others are sleeping, pharmacists work hard “to ensure we all live in a better society, especially when you talk about the dangers of substance abuse.”
Odu stressed that, “It is really becoming a thing of great concern because of the level of children getting involved in this thing. It is even coming down to primary schools which now increases the burden of what you are doing, so we appreciate you for what you are doing for the society which we all are living in.”
The deputy governor extolled the lady pharmacists for the scholarship scheme they were sponsoring, noting that it was “amazing because when you change the narrative of somebody’s life, you become what they call a destiny helper.”
The deputy governor added, “So, for me, it is something I would encourage. Even the Bible says when you do it for them you have done unto God. It is a thing we get a lot of blessings out off, you may not see it now but some day it will definitely come.”
She expressed gratitude to them for their support for the Fubara-led administration which according to her has continued to spur them into action.
“Let me thank you for upholding the governor and myself in prayers, because without prayers we won’t be here, many people have prayed and God has heard, please do not stop, even for good governance, we need God to grant us the wisdom and knowledge of what to do”, she said.
In her remarks, Chairman of the Rivers State Branch of Association of Lady Pharmacists of Nigeria, Ebelechukwu Odom, said they were at the Government House to identify with the Governor Fubara-led administration in the ongoing restructuring of the state, and pledged their allegiance and unflinching support to the administration.
She assured that they would utilize the competences of Lady Pharmacists in Rivers State and synergize with partners for improvement in health, education, research development and socio-economic wellbeing of humanity through relevant and appropriate interventions, projects and programmes.
RSG Denies Rumours Of Cholera Outbreak In Soku
The Rivers State Government says it is not aware of any cholera outbreak in Soku community in the Akuku Toru Local Government Area of the State.
This was contained in a statement made available to newsmen in Port Harcourt by the State Ministry of Health.
According to the statement signed by the Commissioner for Health, Dr Adaeze Chidinma Oreh, the clarification was necessary following numerous enquiries from the media over a purported outbreak of cholera in Soku community.
The statement read in part, “The Rivers State Ministry of Health has received numerous enquiries from the Press regarding an alleged outbreak of cholera in Soku community in Akuku Toru Local Government Area.
“Public health teams dispatched to investigate these alleged cases and deaths have so far received no confirmation of such.”
While describing cholera as a waterborne infectious disease, the commissioner said that the disease is notifiable, warranting escalating reports from disease surveillance and notification officers at the community level.
The statement clarified that the ongoing medical outreach in Soku community is in no way related to any outbreak of cholera.
“Outreaches have always been a way of getting accessible health care to underserved and vulnerable population, however, all such outreach activities must be conducted with approval from and in collaboration with the State Ministry of Health and as such no entity should be conducting outreaches outside the coordination of the ministry”, it warned.
The ministry further said that all infectious diseases of this nature are reported, managed and escalated by the Rivers State Ministry of Health.
Dr. Oreh said the statement should serve as a strong warning to anyone conducting or planning health activities without due recourse to the Rivers State Ministry of Health.
She added that any such activities found to be carried out without the knowledge and clearance of the State Ministry of Health will be fully investigated and dealt with in order to ensure the protection of the lives of the people.
“Therefore, the general public and members of the Press are advised to disregard the rumours making the round on an ongoing outbreak of cholera and the death of some citizens of Soku community in Akuku Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State as it is presently unfounded, misguided and capable of causing panic amongst citizens and residents.
“The general public is thus urged to remain calm and rest assured that the Rivers State Ministry of Health will continue to be a veritable source of public health information in the state”, the statement concluded.
Bill On State Police Scales Second Reading
The House of Representatives, yesterday, passed for second reading a bill to provide for the establishment of state police in the country.
Sponsored by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Benjamin Kalu and 14 others, the bill seeks to alter the relevant Sections of the 1999 Constitution to pave the way for states to establish their own policing outfits.
As lawmakers took turns to contribute to the debate on the floor of the House during yesterday’s plenary, Kalu who stood in for the Speaker, Abbas Tajudeen, urged members to look beyond political ambitions and think about the safety of Nigerians and Nigeria.
Also speaking, Babajimi Benson (APC, Lagos) said, “It is the job of the police to maintain law and order. We have a population of over 200m people but we have a police strength that is less than 400,000. State Police should be created to address the internal security challenges of Nigeria.”
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