Pakistan PM’s visit to India deemed as 'intolerable'

Updated 10 March 2013
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Pakistan PM’s visit to India deemed as 'intolerable'

JAIPUR, India: The spiritual head of a revered Muslim shrine in India where Pakistan’s premier Raja Pervez Ashraf is set to visit at the weekend said Friday that he objected to the politician’s pilgrimage.
Ashraf and his family are due to begin a day-long private trip on Saturday to the shrine in Ajmer Sharif, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of New Delhi.
The visit is Ashraf’s first trip to India as prime minister and comes at a time of strained relations between New Delhi and Islamabad after tit-for-tat killings of soldiers at the tense border between the neighbors.
“I have decided to boycott the visit (to protest) the brutal killing of our Indian soldiers by the Pakistani army,” shrine spiritual head Zainul Abedin Ali Khan said.
“The incident has hurt Indians,” Khan added in a statement.
Tensions between the rival neighbors rose in January when six soldiers on both sides were killed in exchanges along the Line of Control (LoC) de facto border in Kashmir, a region claimed by both countries.
One of the Indians was beheaded, allegedly by Pakistanis.
Khan said he would also protest Ashraf’s trip because of alleged ill-treatment of Hindus in Pakistan.
“There are incidents of atrocities on minorities in Pakistan and we have seen people from the Hindu community migrating to India on account of religious, financial and social persecution in Pakistan,” he said.
“I am against that, and to express my feelings, I decided to boycott the visit,” Khan said.
Ajmer Bar Association President Rajesh Tandon described the visit as “intolerable” and warned that lawyers would symbolically cleanse the road on which the Pakistani leader traveled to mark their protest.
“This is intolerable for an Indian because of the beheading of our soldier at the LoC,” Tandon said.
Ashraf will be the most senior Pakistani to visit India since last April when President Asif Ali Zardari embarked on a similar pilgrimage and then had lunch with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
While media reports said Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid will host lunch for Ashraf, Yashwant Sinha, a Hindu nationalist leader from India’s main opposition BJP party on Friday urged New Delhi not to hold official talks with him.
India, which has fought three wars with Pakistan since independence in 1947, accuses Islamabad of fomenting cross-border militancy.


UAE builds $190m township in Kabul

Updated 8 min 28 sec ago
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UAE builds $190m township in Kabul

  • Housing complex in Afghanistan will include 3,330 residential units and state-of-the-art infrastructure, amenities and power station.
  • With an estimated cost of $150 million, this is the first mega housing construction scheme built for free by a foreign country in Afghanistan since the ousting of the Taliban government in 2001.

KABUL: The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) is financing a 708 million dirham ($190 million) upscale social housing development project in Afghanistan.

Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed City Housing Complex in the Qasba district of Kabul will include 3,330 residential units with state-of-the-art infrastructure, amenities and other support services.The project was inaugurated by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Mohammed Saif Al-Suwaidi, director general of the ADFD, over the weekend, according to a ADFD press release on Monday.

With an estimated cost of $150 million, this is the first mega housing construction scheme built for free by a foreign country in Afghanistan since the ousting of the Taliban government in 2001, Afghan officials said on Tuesday.

“The emirate has also promised to build a power substation for providing electricity for the township,” Nilofar Langar, chief spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Rural Development and Housing, told Arab News. He said that this, combined with the water filtering facility, will cost an additional $40 million.

 

 The ADFD director general led the UAE delegation at the opening ceremony. Other attendees included Saif Al-Shamsi, charge d’affaires at the UAE Embassy in Afghanistan; Sadat Mansoor Nader, Afghan minister of urban development and housing, as well as other Afghan government officials.

“Today is a happy day … that with the close cooperation of brotherly UAE, the people of Afghanistan witness a clear and distinct change in their lives,” President Ghani said in a statement.

He hoped there would closer ties between the private sectors of the two countries to facilitate commerce.

Ghani’s government has been trying to forge closer ties with Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where Afghans have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the past two decades.

The ADFD first started supporting development projects in Afghanistan in 1977 and has since invested 1.2 billion dirhams in 14 different projects contributing to the economic and social growth of the country. Some of the key investments were made in housing, social services, health, education, transport and industry.

The ADFD has also invested in repairing major roads and bridges in Kabul, as well as Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport.

The apartment units constructed by the ADFD are being sold by the Afghan government to its employees as part of a 20-year loan installment deal, Foreign Ministry officials told Arab News.

The exodus of hundreds of thousands of Afghans from Pakistan and Iran, with little arrangement for accommodation, has led to a spike in demand for housing in Afghanistan over recent years, the official said.

FACTOID

The mega housing project was inaugurated by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday. Abu Dhabi Fund for Development financed the 708 million dirham ($190 million) social housing development project. The ADFD has also pledged to build a power station.