Project aims to bring diaspora students to work in Pakistan

Updated September 16, 2019

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Mustafaen Kamal, founder of the Dil Internship Project, in a meeting with the director of Artistic, Muhammad Yusuf.
Mustafaen Kamal, founder of the Dil Internship Project, in a meeting with the director of Artistic, Muhammad Yusuf.

KARACHI: To establish Pakistan as a work destination for students from the Pakistani diaspora, Musta­faen Kamal has come up with a unique project — the Dil Internship Project.

“Last year, we saw an enormous groundswell of appetite to ‘help’ Pakistan, but often the Pakistani diaspora does not have a natural route to help the country beyond charity. The Dil Internship Project seeks to bridge that gap by providing opportunities in the private and public sector that provide real value to the businesses and our interns,” said Mr Kamal, who is currently studying at the Oxford University.

The project was formalised in December last year and this summer, they took their first batch of interns; they received around 930 applications. At the moment, Mr Kamal and his team are busy planning for the next batch.

Talking about the project, he said they had 30 volunteers from a range of backgrounds studying at universities such as Stan­ford, Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, UCL, Harvard, Wellesley, Warwick and UCLA. He added that next year they are planning to add at least eight companies and public bodies to the eight that already exist.

Plans are afoot to open offices in Lahore and northern areas

He explained that their aim was to create a mutually beneficial relationship. “While the interns are here we also showcase a lot of the cultural aspects of Pakistan — ranging from Hindu temples, to research centres of excellence like Aga Khan University Hospital, we even took them to the Superstar premiere in Karachi where they met Mahira Khan. This part of the project is aimed to help people re-calibrate their opinions about Pakistan, a country whose reputation is often maligned in the press unfairly,” he said.

“We do this with the commercial side as well; the interns also got a tour of the McKinsey offices in Karachi and network with their employees. We currently operate in Karachi, Islamabad and Dubai; next year will include Lahore and the northern areas to showcase all of Pakistan,” he added.

Mr Kamal, who was a Laidlaw Scholar at the Cambridge University and did his first degree at the London School of Economics in philosophy and economics, said: “We are partnering up with Pakistan’s best universities — LUMS, Comsats and BNU — to make sure young people here are part of the dialogue that shapes the future of their country.”

“We also give them mentors, people who have actively made the choice of working in Pakistan despite having studied abroad such as successful entrepreneurs or employees at McKinsey. The idea is to create an international cohesive force dedicated to the betterment of Pakistan that transcends boundaries,” he added.

Mr Kamal, who was recently in Karachi and Lahore for the project, said they had a lot lined up for the future.

“The government has shown quite a lot of interest in filling skills and knowledge defects in various departments. We are keen to collaborate with the IT and climate change spaces, as there is a lot of room for Pakistan to become a hub for international collaboration. Both of these departments invited me to present my ideas and we will look forward to fruitful relationships in the future,” he explained.

Mr Kamal said he had been in the country for the last three weeks having meetings with ministers, universities, hospitals and businesses in order to make the line-up very fruitful for next year.

“The business community has been very receptive, pointing to skill deficits in their labour force that we can plug with our interns. The government has shown a great eagerness to make Pakistan a lot more internationally collaborative in terms of public policy decisions and we are spearheading that,” he said.

Mr Kamal hopes the project becomes a force for making the case about what can go right in Pakistan.

“We want to do this by making sure the world knows that there is more than charity involved in helping Pakistan, it is a ­natural home for your skills and talents too,” he said.

Internship opportunities for 2020 will be up on the project’s website (dilinternshipproject.com) from the middle of next month. There are two rounds of interviews before you find a placement.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2019