US urged to expedite ROZs legislation

Express June 23, 2010

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has urged the US administration to expedite legislation on the Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) for undertaking development activities in Pakistan’s tribal regions.

During a meeting with US special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke here on Wednesday, Zardari asked him to use his influence to motivate Congressmen for softening the counter-productive labour provision related to the legislation.

According to an official handout, the President also emphasised on early reimbursement of arrears in the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), the money Pakistan is due to receive from the US for its war-on-terror expenditures.

Already there have been concerns in Pakistan’s political and military circles about delay in the release of CSF money by the US and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani also raised the issue with Holbrooke a couple of days ago. Last week a top defence ministry official told a parliamentary panel that Pakistan might have no other option but to stop operations against militants in the tribal areas if the US doesn’t release the money immediately. It is, however, not clear whether Holbrooke responded to the demand and how soon the administration in Washington would be releasing the money.

Holbrooke was accompanied by Anne W Patterson, the US ambassador in Islamabad, and senior officials.

According to the statement, matters relating to the Pak-US bilateral relations, security situation in the region, war against terror and an ongoing strategic dialogue between the two countries figured in the discussion.

Briefing the media, presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that the meeting was part of consultations that Holbrooke has been holding with Pakistan’s political leadership and state authorities.

Progress on sectoral track meetings that were recently held in Islamabad for the preparation of the fifth round of strategic dialogue scheduled in the third week of July also came under discussion.

Holbrooke reiterated US long-term commitment to the strategic partnership with Pakistan and said the administration in Washington was conscious of the need for creating opportunities for the people in the conflict zone in order to win the battle for hearts and minds.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2010.


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