Ceremony for Afghan Students under HEC's Project titled "Award of 3000 Scholarships to Afghan Students PM's Directive", at Pak-China Friendship Centre, Islamabad (8 February 2017)
Remarks by Mr. Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs
Honorable President of Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Dr. Mukhtar, Chairman HEC,
Dr. Farida Momand, Minister of Higher Education,
Ambassador of Afghanistan, Mr. Omer Zakhilwal,
Distinguished Guests, Vice Chancellors, Students
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a matter of immense pleasure for me to be a part of this important event and witness the fruits of cooperation in the field of education. Today, not only marks an important stage in the academic careers of these brilliant Afghan students present at today's ceremony but also a significant milestone in the bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan. I hope that this collaboration on various strategic fronts will continue to grow, as from past decades on a countless occasions, two countries have shown interest and made tangible efforts to upscale the ties in a meaningful manner.
Pakistan has a strong desire to strengthen relations with its neighboring countries and it attaches special emphasis on Pakistan and Afghanistan relations. Mutually beneficial relationships between countries is critical to promote peace and stability in South Asia and the broader region. Despite various challenges, the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan has continued to grow through people to people contacts and trade for decades. A partnership cultivated on the basis of socio economic development is the way forward.
Government of Pakistan is also fully committed to take necessary steps to ensure that Afghanistan comes out of the challenges so that it can emerge on an international stage as progressive and peaceful nation. That is why we are looking forward to an all-encompassing relationship, from people-to-people contacts to government-to-government relations.
The relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the field of education date back to late 1970s when Pakistan whole heartedly welcomed millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan during the jihad era. In the past four decades, hundreds of thousands of these refugee students have been receiving their education in Pakistani schools and universities, at par with the Pakistani students.
In addition, the commonalities of culture and ethnicity make Pakistan an attractive destination of higher education for Afghan students. This is evident from the fact that Pakistan hosts the largest number of Afghan students studying abroad. More than 48,000 Afghan graduates from Pakistani educational institutions are serving in various Afghan institutions in the public and private sectors. We are proud of this contribution to Afghanistan's progress. These Afghans are an asset for Pakistan and our ambassadors in their home country.
Human resource is the backbone of any modern society and economy. It's the vibrant youth with a vision and determination to carve out a bright future that lays the foundation of a strong nation. Pakistan took the initiative of offering scholarships to Afghan students and in 2010 launched the Prime Minister's Scholarship scheme in the field of higher education for Afghan students. To date, 2912 scholarships have been availed from a total of 3000. These scholarships have been granted for education in the fields of medicine, engineering, computer science, banking and finance. The scholarships have been offered for education in leading higher education institutions and state-of-the-art universities including LUMS, IBA and COMSATS.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me immense pleasure to share with you that in view of the successful completion of this phase, the Prime Minister has approved another 3000 scholarships under our new bilateral assistance package of $500 million for Afghanistan announced at Brussels Conference in October 2016. This would enable more Afghan students to be enrolled in our academic institutions and seek education in more diversified fields.
Let me also take this opportunity to acknowledge the commendable work carried out by Higher Education Commission in creating a solid framework enrolling Afghan students in Pakistani professional colleges and universities. The HEC is also constantly engaged in taking concrete steps in making their stay in Pakistan comfortable and productive. We have succeeded in overcoming some challenges including the differences in medium of education. In this regard, HEC is bringing improvement in arranging adequate English language courses for incoming students enabling them to better adjust in their study programmes.
I congratulate the Afghan students and look forward for their valuable contribution to the progress of Afghanistan.
We also look forward to a relationship with Afghanistan that is defined by confidence and mutual trust and that encompasses many areas of cooperation to enable both countries to grow together.