Nitish should advice Zardari on development, feels ex-envoy

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Islamabad, Nov 13: A former Pakistani foreign secretary on Tuesday asked Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to offer consultancy services to President Asif Ali Zardari so that the success story of his state could be scripted in Pakistan as well.

The suggestion was made by Riaz Khokhar, who had served as Pakistan's envoy to India from 1992-97, during a round table conference on 'Growth Story of Bihar' that was hosted by the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad.

His idea led to laughter among the guests comprising former diplomats, researchers and civil society people, who had lent their ears to Kumar as he spoke on the steps he had taken to improve the law and order problem in his state and also governance at the local level.

Stressing these two factors which he told were the main reasons responsible for Bihar's turnaround, Nitish Kumar said he had made it clear that the "guilty would not be spared". He said courts were set up to conduct speedy trials in the state and the police force was also overhauled and the changes resulted in conviction of over 74,000 criminals.

Kumar said his government seized huge bungalows that were built by a former bureaucrat and senior police officer as part of efforts to curb corruption. Kumar, who was addressing the gathering in Hindi, said the government passed the Right to Public Services Act to encourage good governance. According to the Bihar CM, the act ensured time-bound catering of services and any delay would result in disciplinary action against the concerned officials.

Nitish Kumar cited impressive figures that reflected the improvement in Bihar, like air traffic to the state increased four-fold in six years and the ten-fold rise in the number of foreign tourists between 2006 and 2011. Another success story is the Bihar Bridge Construction Corporation, which was almost defunct, but went on to record a profit of Rs 250 crore. Kumar also spoke about the scheme to provide bicycles to rural girls to improve attendance in schools.

The JD(U) leader said there was a need for more exchanges between India and Pakistan while referring to the common culture and heritage of the two nations. He said dialogue was the only way out as no war had succeeded in solving any problem. He said more people-to-people relation was key. Kumar said talks should take place between Karachi and Patna and Amritsar and Lahore besides the normal Delhi-Islamabad talks. He, however, avoided contentious issues like the Kashmir problem and only spoke about improved ties between the two neighbours.

The Bihar CM reached Karachi on Friday for a week-long visit at the invitation of Pakistan's federal government and the provincial governments of Sindh and Punjab. Kumar's trip has been backed by the Indian Prime Minister's Office and the External Affairs Ministry as part of the efforts to improve the bilateral peace process between the two countries.

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