Pakistani Ambassador Speaks at Columbia
NEW YORK, NY–Pakistanâ€™s permanent representative to the United Nations said Monday that as a result of economic policies and structural reforms over the last few years, there had been a 7 percent growth in Pakistanâ€™s economy, revenue collection had increased and poverty has fallen from 35 percent to 24 percent.
Ambassador Munir Akram â€“attending a discussion as a keynote speaker on â€˜Inside Pakistanâ€™, organised by Pakistani students from the City College of New York and the Pakistani-American Leadership Centre at the Columbia University â€“ said that a business could now be established in Pakistan within 24 days. He said that foreign investorsâ€™ confidence in Pakistanâ€™s economy could be determined from the fact that nearly $3.9 billion had been received as foreign direct investment over the last nine months, and the UAE alone had committed to invest $50 billion in the country over the next five years. â€œWe need to expand exports by diversification and value addition,â€ he added.
Akram said Pakistan was now the fifth largest country in terms of population, a nuclear weapons state and a strong military power capable of defending its national frontiers.
He said that women in Pakistan enjoyed representation in all tiers of the government, and referred to recent legislation aimed to remove injustices against women.
Progress had also been made in education, and efforts were being made to build a moderate, tolerant and progressive Islamic society as envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam, he said. â€œWe are an Islamic state, not a theocratic state. We are playing a leading role in the global war on terror,â€ he said, adding that the Al Qaeda network had been dismantled, and Pakistan was now engaged in dealing with the resurgent Taliban. The Pakistan governmentâ€™s agreement with tribal elders from North Waziristan â€“ essentially an exchange of peace for development â€“ was â€œworking and has brought relative calm to the areaâ€.
He said that the surge in Taliban attacks had no connection with the North Waziristan agreement. The ambassador said that while Pakistanâ€™s location provided great economic opportunities, it was also faced with huge challenges, both external and internal. He briefed the audience on the progress made in the Indo-Pak composite dialogue process, citing a number of confidence-building measures agreed by the two.
Kashmir was the most difficult of the issues, he said, adding that President Gen Pervez Musharraf had floated several ideas to break the deadlock. He was hopeful that the two countries would find a mutually acceptable solution to the dispute.
Replying to a question about a presidential reference against suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, Akram said that the president had acted according to the constitution, and now the matter was in the hands of the Supreme Judicial Council. He said that Pakistan was concerned over the Tehran-Washington confrontation, and hopes that the problems between the two countries would be resolved through diplomacy.
School Promotes Muslim values
JOHNSON CITY, NY–The Crescent Academy school held an open house on the weekend to inform the community of its excellent curriculum and style of learning. The school opened last September and offers full-day programs from pre-kindergarten to second grades. It also offers half-day programs for two and three year olds.
Tuition is $275 a month for kindergarten and $295 a month for the other programs. Financial aid is available for those in need. The school offers Arabic classes three days a week. Religious instruction is woven through the curriculum.
The schoolâ€™s brochure touts small classes, â€œhighly motivatedâ€ teachers and a balanced education, along with the integration of Arabic and Islamic studies.
The school plans to add first and second grades next year and gradually expand to a K-5 school. Plans call for the school to be chartered by New York state and teach the state curriculum.
Muslim Students Receive Scholarships–Westchester Womenâ€™s Hall of Fame
Westchester County, NY–The Westchester County Womenâ€™s Hall of Fame honored thirty female students with scholarships at a ceremony at the Hilton Rye Town. Soumbel Zahid and Sabine Khan of Yonkers High School received the Stock Familly LLC of $2000 and Verizon Woman of the Future scholars for $2000 respectively.
All women are selected based on academic success and promise for the future.
â€œThe women receiving these scholarships have been selected because they are already going some place with their lives. Given a little help and encouragement, we expect they will earn college degrees, continue moving forward with the dedication and perseverance theyâ€™ve already demonstrated, and very likely go on to become leaders themselves,â€™â€™ said County Executive Andy Spano.
Camille Murphy, director of the Office for Women, noted that the generosity of event sponsors as well as attendees of last yearâ€™s luncheon allowed for an unprecedented number of scholarships this year. â€œWe are pleased that our corporate sponsors continue to respond so positively to this initiative and help us make it a success every year,â€ Murphy said.
Proceeds from the luncheon will go towards future scholarships. The luncheon is hosted by the Westchester County Office for Women, and sponsored by Avon, Con Edison, Eileen Fisher, Fuji Photo ilm U.S.A. Inc., IBM Corporation, Lanza Family Foundation, MasterCard International, Merrill Lynch, Stock Family LLC, Verizon and Westchester Womenâ€™s Bar Association Foundation.
Saadi Khan Wins Science Fair Award
HERNDON, VA–Saadia Khan of Dominion High School, won the $1000 Willocroft Student Award, and teacher Denise Wingfield, won the $500 Willowcroft Teacher Award at the Regional Science and Engineering Fair held on March 25. Khan also came first in the Behavioral & Social Sciences category. Hannah Abdelrahman of Loudoun County came second.
Sarah Imam of Freedom High School achieved an honorable mention in the bio-chemistry category.
Saqeef Ahmad, od Dominion High School came third in the Plant Sciences category.
Money Problems Slow Arizona Mosque
CHANDLER, AZ–The construction of Chandlerâ€™s first mosque is progressing at a snailâ€™s pace due to the paucity of funds. The slow progrss has attracted crticism from neighbors who say they are tired of the dust, debris and the skeleton og the building.
The plans of the mosque were approved in 2002 and planners had expected it to finish in two years. But a financial crunch is causing the delays and post-9/11 fundraising has been more difficult than expected, said Arif Kazmi, former chairman of the Chandler Human Relations Commission and project director.
â€œThere is a fear in some people that the mosque may take money and send it out of the country, to the Middle East or Africa,â€ Kazmi told the Arizona Central.
City Planning Director Doug Ballard said the project has met all city building permit requirements.
â€œItâ€™s unusual for construction to go on so long, but weâ€™re trying to work with them because theyâ€™re not the only religious organization that ends up with financial difficulties,â€ he said.
In response to neighborsâ€™ concerns, the City Council voted in 1996 to approve a use permit for the future mosque on the condition that it not have access to Pleasant Drive, a residential street east of the site.
Kazmi said because of that restriction, his group had to secure access to Alma School Road and sold two lots it owned on Pleasant Drive.
Muslim & Hindu Students Raise Kashmir Funds
Waterloo, Ontario–The Pakistani Studentsâ€™ Association and the Hindu Studentsâ€™ Association at the University of Waterloo in Ontario held their fourth annual Save Kashmir event to raise funds for charities working on both sides of the border, reports the campus newspaper.
Proceeds went to two charities concerning both sides of the Kashmir border. Child Nurture and Relief is a non-profit, independent organization working for the well-being of children in conflicted regions.
The Edhi Foundation is a non-profit organization providing social services to distressed areas in Pakistan and the rest of the world. It provides shelters for orphans and handicapped persons, as well as counselling services and relief efforts.
Save Kashmir has grown a lot over the past four years,â€ said Mahathi Komaragiri, HSA president. â€œItâ€™s an attempt to raise awareness together.â€
Throughout the event, two Western students from the Kashmir region, brothers Hashim and Habeel Gazi, presented information about the Kashmir conflict.
They said raising awareness and becoming educated on the Kashmir conflict is an excellent way to help.
Nigmendra Narain, a political-science lecturer, said while the Kashmir conflict requires a long-term plan, events uniting groups in times of conflict are also extremely important.