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Through aid, U.S. tries to build Pakistan's trust

At a news conference with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke of the U.S. commitment to Pakistan.

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At a news conference with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke of the U.S. commitment to Pakistan.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday unveiled development projects for Pakistan ranging from hydroelectric dams to hospital makeovers in hopes of reversing Pakistan perceptions that American officials view their nation through the prism of fighting terrorism while ignoring some of its most serious needs.

On her second visit to Islamabad since taking office, Clinton announced a bevy of projects aimed at tackling major infrastructure ills that wreak havoc on everyday life in Pakistan and prevent the country's moribund economy from getting off the ground. Most of those projects were directed at severe electricity and water supply crises.

The work, totaling about $500 million, includes two hydroelectric dams, one in northern Pakistan and the other in the militancy-troubled tribal region of South Waziristan; 13 irrigation, water storage and municipal water projects; renovation or construction of three hospitals; and overhauls of electrical distribution systems.

The Obama administration has been working to dispel Pakistan's mistrust for the United States, a wariness rooted in how Washington treated Pakistan in the years after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1988-89. While Moscow occupied Afghanistan, the United States and Pakistan teamed up in supporting fighters against Soviet troops. But when the Soviets left, U.S. attention to the region dissipated.

During the Bush administration, the bulk of the billions in aid that Washington channeled to Pakistan went to the country's military and the war on terror, while Pakistan's economic and social ills went largely ignored.

"There's a legacy of suspicion that we inherited," Clinton said at a news conference after talks Monday with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. "It's not going to be eliminated overnight. But it's our goal to slowly but surely demonstrate that the U.S. is concerned about Pakistan for the long term, and that the partnership goes far beyond security against our common enemies."

An economic aid package enacted last year known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman effort was meant to reflect Washington's desire to reshape the relationship with Islamabad. The package sets aside $7.5 billion over five years. The projects unveiled Monday were part of that package and are either under way or about to be started.

Gunmen kill 2 Christians

Gunmen killed two Pakistani Christian brothers accused of blasphemy against Islam as they left court on Monday. The men were chained together when the attack took place in the eastern city of Faislabad as they were being taken back into custody after their court appearance. They were arrested a month ago after leaflets allegedly bearing their names and featuring derogatory remarks against the prophet Mohammed were found in the town, said Shahbaz Bhatti, minister for minority affairs. He said mosques in Faislabad had called for the men to be attacked.

Associated Press

Through aid, U.S. tries to build Pakistan's trust 07/19/10 [Last modified: Monday, July 19, 2010 9:50pm]
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