Ottawa (Canada), Aug.13 (ANI): Canada will expand aid to Pakistan, notably to bolster the weak public school system that has left a void to be filled by fundamentalist madrassas, as it increasingly views Pakistan's stability as the key to success in Afghanistan, the Globe and Mail reports.
In Pakistan on Wednesday, Canada's International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda pledged 25 million dollars for food, water and emergency shelter for refugees who had fled a Pakistani military offensive against Taliban insurgents four months ago.
Many of the more than two million people who left their homes in the Swat Valley in April are returning. But the huge numbers of refugees have placed a strain on local resources, and reconstruction efforts will be costly.
"They're rebuilding police stations, judiciary, making sure that power is available, water is available, gas is available," said Oda, who visited the Jalozai Internally Displaced Persons camp Tuesday.
In addition to the 25 million dollars in emergency aid, Canada will expand its longer-term development assistance to Pakistan, Oda said, as it joins other countries in linking success against the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan - the largest single recipient of Canadian aid - with stability in Pakistan.
"Afghanistan is Canada's biggest mission," she said. "We do share with the United States and other countries working in Afghanistan [a recognition] of the importance of Pakistan to achieve the objectives we want to achieve in Afghanistan.
"There will be enhanced engagement," she said.
Canadian aid to Pakistan - 43-million dollars in 2007-08 - already funds a teacher-training program in Karachi and primary-school education in some rural areas.
Pakistan's under-funded and patchy public education system is seen as one reason for the growing influence of madrassas, religious schools run by Muslim clerics.
Those schools offer free or low-cost education in poor areas where public schools are rundown or non-existent, and enroll an estimated 5 per cent of the country's pupils.
Some madrassas are viewed as training grounds for Taliban insurgents, although experts note that only a small minority of the 15,000 or more madrassas in Pakistan preach violence or serve as Taliban recruiting grounds.
Canada's move follows a trend among Western allies - led by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama - of linking Pakistan and Afghanistan as a regional security issue. (ANI)