Wed, Apr 15, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Pakistan may get US$6bn in aid

FUNDRAISER: The World Bank donors conference comes after the US

AFP , WASHINGTON

The World Bank said on Monday that Pakistan was expected to get pledges of aid of between US$4 billion and US$6 billion at a donors conference in Tokyo this week.

“We are still making efforts, we think this is possible,” Isabel Guerrero, the bank’s vice president for South Asia, told reporters when asked whether such an aid projection could be met at the talks on Friday to be cohosted by the development lender and Japan.

The meeting comes after US President Barack Obama unveiled a sweeping strategy to turn around the Afghan war and defeat militants in Pakistan, which Washington has put at the heart of the fight against al-Qaeda.

Guerrero said 27 countries and 16 organizations would attend the conference, with most delegations to be led at minister-level. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is scheduled to head Pakistan’s delegation.

Pakistan voiced hope on Monday that the donors conference would endorse a US$4 billion aid package to stabilize the battered economy and fight against Islamist militancy.

Guerrero said a “Friends of Pakistan” meeting on political and security issues would be held before the donors conference on development assistance on the same day.

“There could be pledges there as well,” she said.

Hajime Hayashi, a senior Japanese embassy official, said the Pakistan government was under “heavy pressure” and “it is naturally very important for the international community to provide fresh pledges to provide financial assistance.”

“There are some strong positive signs of their fresh pledges from these countries and participants,” he said.

“We very much hope a good result” will emerge from the talks, he said.

Pakistani Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin said this week in Islamabad that his country, a frontline state and a key ally in the US-led “war on terror,” has paid a heavy price in dealing with extremist violence in the country’s troubled northwest, where it borders Afghanistan.

Military operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked militants have displaced around 300,000 people and the government wants to help them in their rehabilitation, he said.

Meanwhile, Zardari signed a controversial regulation to put part of the country under Islamic law as part of peace efforts to end the Taliban insurgency, an official said yesterday.

Zardari’s move formalizes a deal between a pro-Taliban cleric and the local government in Northwest Frontier Province that critics say will embolden extremists.

His spokeswoman said the deal, agreed on in February, had been signed on Monday night.

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