Reuters South Asia News Highlights 1002 GMT, Jan 11

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Tuesday, 11 January 2011 10:02 GMT

U.S. Afghanistan reconstruction auditor resigns

KABUL - A U.S. auditor for Afghanistan reconstruction, who said waste and fraud in efforts to rebuild the war-torn country may have cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars, resigned on Tuesday.

Arnold Fields, a retired Marine Corps general, said he would step down on Feb. 4 after nearly three years as the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR) overseeing tens of billions of dollars spent in Afghanistan.

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Mainstream extremism: is secularism dying in Pakistan?

ISLAMABAD - Secularism has become a dangerous, deadly label in Pakistan as Muslim extremists slowly strengthen their stranglehold on the nuclear-armed, U.S. ally and put its stability at risk.

Punjab governor Salman Taseer was a liberal, secular Muslim who, last week, was shot dead by his own bodyguard for opposing a blasphemy law that many human rights activists say is often used to discriminate against ethnic and religious minorities.

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Bhutto pledges to defend minorities in Pakistan

LONDON - Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of Pakistan's ruling party, on Monday condemned the killing of a politician for seeking changes to blasphemy laws, and called those celebrating his death "the real blasphemers".

Bhutto, the son of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated in 2007, also pledged to defend the country's minorities -- increasingly under siege from powerful religious lobbies and often targets of Islamist violence. (Compiled by World Desk Asia, +65 6870-3815)

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