ISLAMABAD: As part of the assistance package to the nascent Afghan government, Pakistan has decided in principle to offer thousands of scholarships to Afghan students, besides opening a campus of Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) in Kabul.
In this regard, the Ministry of Education and Professional Training has finalised a Rs11.2 billion package to improve the education sector and skill development in the war-torn country.
According to sources in the ministry, the amount will be spent for offering scholarships to 3,000 Afghan students in Pakistani universities, free training with stipend to 5,000 Afghan nationals for skills development in Islamabad, free training to 150 Afghan teachers, 100 nursing diploma scholarships and establishment of regional campus of AIOU in Kabul.
The sources said a summary had already been sent to Prime Minister Imran Khan for approval of the package. The ministry has finalised the package on the directive of Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood after a last week meeting between the Pakistani officials and a Afghan delegation headed by Minister for Higher Education Maulana Abdul Baqi Haqqani. The eight-member delegation is currently visiting Pakistan and has already visited various subordinate organisations of the education ministry, including the HEC.
Last month, Prime Minister Khan approved Rs5 billion humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, besides allowing transportation of Indian food assistance for the country through Pakistan.
Pakistan is also hosting an extraordinary session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s foreign ministers in Islamabad to highlight the plight of the Afghan people who have been facing a tough and testing time.
Meanwhile, during a meeting with the Afghan delegation on Wednesday, President Dr Arif Alvi said Pakistan would assist Afghanistan in digital transformation of its varsities and provide online education to its students.
The president said that AIOU and Virtual University (VU) of Pakistan had been directed to help the university students in Afghanistan. Besides, the president said, the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission would arrange vocational training programmes for the Afghan people in various fields.
President Alvi said Pakistan would continue to provide all possible assistance to Afghanistan for development of its education sector and capacity-building of its educational institutions.
The president said Afghanistan was passing through a very difficult phase and urged the international community to provide economic and humanitarian aid to save the country from a possible human catastrophe.
During the meeting, the two sides agreed to increase collaboration between higher education institutions of the two countries.
The visiting Afghan minister thanked the Pakistan government for its role in the reconstruction and education development of Afghanistan. He termed meetings with the Pakistani leadership very fruitful.
The Afghan delegation met the president on the day PM Khan presided over the second meeting of Apex Committee on Afghanistan which was also attended by Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.–Dawn