ISLAMABAD: The government has launched a programme for capacity building of universities in war-torn Afghanistan and awarded 3,000 scholarships to Afghan students studying in Pakistan.
Under the programme, another 3,000 scholarships for graduation to PhD level studies will be awarded to Afghans soon.
President Mamnoon Hussain granted documents of scholarships to the Afghan students under a project of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) at a ceremony held at the Pak-China Centre here on Wednesday.
He said the purpose of the programme was to provide Afghan students with the same educational opportunities as enjoyed by Pakistani students. He expressed the hope that the Afghan students would play a role in enhancing goodwill between the two countries.
He urged Muslim countries to shun differences, resolve issues amicably, extend cooperation to each other, exchange expertise in different fields, focus on science and technology and collectively address issues being confronted by Muslim Ummat.
Afghan Minister for Higher Education Farida Mohmand, HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed and Ms Samina and Syed Abdullah Qasmi, two Afghan students, also addressed the ceremony.
Talking to Dawn after the function, the HEC chairman said Afghanistan had asked Pakistan for capacity building of universities. The Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, during a recent visit to Kabul, announced a $500 million support package for Afghanistan, including funds for scholarships and upgrade of Afghan universities. He said at present 156 universities were being run in Afghanistan — 36 in the public sector and 120 in the private sector.
Dr Ahmed said 3,000 Afghan students had been awarded scholarships for graduation level studies in different disciplines, including biology, agriculture, business administration, information technology, chemistry and economics.
After the function, a document of understanding (DoU) was signed between the HEC and the government of Afghanistan with an aim to devise a legal framework for collaboration in the higher education sector.
The HEC chairman and the Afghan minister signed the DoU under which the two sides will devise a future line of action to expand collaboration in higher education sector.
The Afghan minister was accompanied by Omar Zakhilwal, Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, and some professors from her country.
Earlier speaking at the ceremony, President Hussain said Pakistan and Afghanistan should keep an eye on negative elements that fuelled tension and spread misunderstandings with malicious intentions.
“Pakistan has confidence in the wisdom of the Afghan leadership and people and believes that they will play an important role in the journey to progress and prosperity in the region, particularly in the two countries, by thwarting internal and external conspiracies,” he said.
Mr Hussain said Pakistan was keen to include Afghanistan in all opportunities for progress and prosperity with an open heart. He expressed confidence that the Afghan leadership and people, particularly youth, would play a historic role in sync with changed circumstances.
“Pakistan and Afghanistan are not only linked by geographical proximity but are also bound by mutual ties of blood, culture, history and belief. Our ancestors enjoyed close and warm relations standing on this common bedrock,” he said.
He expressed the hope that the two countries would continue to stand shoulder to shoulder for the welfare of their people, as they had done in difficult times in the past.
The president noted that the region had for long confronted lawlessness, wars and extremism... due to which countless human lives had been lost and the process of development had come to a halt. “The courage and determination with which both the nations faced these issues is exemplary and unmatched in human history,” he said. “Now that subversive forces are weakening by the grace of Allah, better sense should prevail and regional issues should be resolved with mutual understanding.”
Published in Dawn February 9th, 2017