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December 3, 2020

Students’ issues discussed at youth jirga

Islamabad

December 3, 2020

Islamabad : Pak-Afghan Youth Forum (PAYF) hosted another Youth Jirga, this time focusing on the needs and issues of Afghan students studying in Pakistan.

The event provided an open forum for the students to discuss concerns with relevant authority figures. The event was attended by Wajiha Akram, the Parliamentary Secretary for Federal Education and Pro-Training, as well as by Jahanzaib Khan, the Director of HEC’s Afghan Directorate.

The event was preceded by an online survey of Afghan students' issues. The event was also webcast live, allowing Afghan students from across Pakistan to raise questions through video-conferencing. Thus, a wide range of experiences were represented. The aim was to make the Jirga as inclusive as possible. As our neighbor has been transforming itself after decades of war, many of the young professionals at the helm of the new, democratic Afghanistan are graduates of Pakistani universities.

Afghans travel to Pakistan for education, while others have been living here as refugees. Although some are private students, since 2009, the Pakistani government has provided scholarships that have allowed over 4,500 Afghans to graduate. Amongst these, are doctors who have gone on to be part of Afghanistan’s frontline during the pandemic. This year, Pakistan offered thousands of scholarships to Afghan citizens under the Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarships, as the scholarships were not released last year due to some issues.

Over 800 students (from the approx. 16,000 that applied), have already arrived in Pakistan. The applications for the second phase (with 3,000 seats) just closed. The major issues highlighted at the Jirga had to do with the process of applying for and getting scholarships, university admissions in fields and cities of interest, as well as in visa processing. Another concern was the facilitation of personal references during scholarship selection when the declared process claims to be merit-based. This form of corruption is disheartening for hard-working students who are unable to avail scholarships. The keynote speakers of the event spoke passionately about the importance of youth exchange at a regional level, and Pakistan’s declared will to help the Afghan youth in terms of education and capacity building. Afghanistan and Pakistan are both brotherly countries and Muslim states, and their future prosperity is mutually dependent.

Wajiha Akram highlighted how neighbors must be supported as it is a permanent relationship between states. Jahanzaib Khan explained some of the HEC’s reasoning, especially in terms of department, university, and city placements. He and Wajiha Akram assured the students that their concerns and issues are valid and they will work on solving these problems. The nature of the event allowed the students to talk about their grievances openly, and receive answers instantly from the speakers. Pak Afghan Youth Forum looks forward to hold such more webinars and events addressing areas of mutual importance and cooperation to facilitate stronger relations between both countries.