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Sec. Clinton: Pakistani Students Respectful

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.

Staff Writer

Washington - A portion of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's three-day visit to Pakistan was spent trying to reach young people through a discussion of issues and emotions, and that became clear during a brief exchange with a young medical student in Lahore.

"There was one young woman who was standing up and she was very, very kind about me personally and all the kinds of things that people say," Clinton said in an interview with NBC News in Islamabad on October 30.

"And then she came with a zinger and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, there but for accident of birth go I 40 years ago,' because it is to the young people that we're trying to reach out," she said.

A young woman who was identified as a medical student at King Edward University rose to ask Clinton a question at a town hall session that was held at Government College University in Lahore on October 29. The town hall was a scheduled part of the secretary's trip so she could talk with college students, listen to their concerns and try to improve understanding.

"I think if I were sitting where those young students are - and remember, young students are more likely to say the things that other people are thinking - I would have had some of the same tough questions," Clinton said.

Clinton told NBC News that one of the reasons her trip to Pakistan included a speech at Government College was so she could hear directly from young people. It's as relevant to her personal diplomatic mission as the normal interaction with government leaders, business executives and tribal leaders that she held over three days of visits in Islamabad and Lahore.

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"Hello, ma'am. I am a medical student at King Edward Medical University. First of all, I'd like madame to know what an inspiration she is for all the aspiring young women all around the world for being who she is. Madame, thank you so much for coming here today," the young woman said as her comments drew applause from other students.

Then she went into a detailed question about intelligence sharing between the United States and Pakistan and the use of unmanned drones in remote regions of Pakistan to strike at insurgents that have been launching raids into Afghanistan and into Pakistan's populous areas. U.S. officials believe elements of the al-Qaida terrorist group and former Taliban regime are in hiding in the Hindu Kush mountain range that separates Afghanistan and Pakistan, and are using those areas to stage operations on both sides of the border.

For Clinton, the exchange was polite and respectful and precisely what she hoped for, even if she could not answer in the detail the student might have wanted. "There's all this pent-up desire to be out there talking, and I think it's a healthy sign. So for me, it was exactly what I expected," she said.

Clinton announced a new service that the United States is partnering with Pakistani telecommunications companies so young people will be able more easily to talk about what is on their minds, and is also an effort to advance civil society. (See "Clinton Encourages Use of New Media Communications in Pakistan: http://www.america.gov/st/texttrans-english/2009/October/20091029111927eaifas0.2466394.html .)

"It's not only the fear that is now unfortunately part of their daily lives, because of the attacks that they are suffering, but for eight years, they feel as though they lost their democracy," Clinton added.

"Everybody was very respectful and personally very supportive, but they had questions about our government's policy," she said. "And I feel like I have a responsibility to try to answer them."

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)


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