Taimur Khan |
Reciprocity is a key norm in international relations whereby a state’s behaviour is considered symmetrical in response to that adopted by another state. This principle is primarily important in fostering trust and rebuilding relations. An objective truth but conveniently ignored one is the fact that Pakistan is playing an extremely significant part in assisting its western neighbour by actively endorsing Afghan students and professionals into its institutes and universities as well as giving scholarship opportunities, especially to Afghan females.
Afghan political and security leadership is adamant on blaming Pakistan for all the ills in the Afghan society but always fail to recognise the good contributions of Pakistan in Afghanistan.
According to Masood Khalid, Pakistan’s Ambassador to People’s Republic of China, Pakistan’s assistance to Afghanistan has surged to $US1 billion which encompass health, education, infrastructure, agriculture and capacity building of Afghan professionals. Moreover, around 750 Afghans have enrolled in Pakistani universities to head start their educational journey. Pakistan has already extended 6,000 fully funded scholarships to Afghan students while 100 seats have been reserved for women each year.
In 2017, Pakistan provided scholarship opportunities to 3,000 Afghan students under Allama Iqbal Scholarship Programme whereby students pursued higher education in medicine, engineering, management and computer science. These scholarships, awarded over a period of five years, were offered after the success of the first phase of the programme which was launched in 2009. Those students, awarded scholarships in the first phase, completed their studies and returned to Afghanistan. This year, on May 10, the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) organised a graduation ceremony of 74 Afghan students who successfully completed their education from various well reputed Pakistani institutions, in this year alone.
Furthermore, the Government of Pakistan has initiated several capacity building projects for Afghanistan’s healthcare professionals. Under these projects, 59 Afghan professionals of the medicine field including doctors, nurses and technicians have successfully completed their training in 2017. In addition to this, 42 Afghan healthcare professionals will start training in their respective fields at the Institute of Kidney Diseases in Peshawar this year. Pakistani government’s capacity building initiatives for Afghan professionals also extend to the fields of agriculture, banking, railways, military and diplomacy as well.
In line with this mandate, multiple Afghan professionals in the field of agriculture have undergone training in “Quarantine and Plant Protection” in Pakistan and the Government of Pakistan will offer 20 fully funded scholarships to officials of the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock to pursue their professional studies at University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.
The Pakistan Railway Academy will soon receive a fresh batch of railway professionals from Afghanistan to start their professional training as well this year. Pakistan’s commitment to capacity building and institution strengthening in Afghanistan can be gauged by the fact that the former has engaged China along with Afghanistan through Practical Cooperation Dialogue process in which Pakistan and China have requested Afghanistan to identify areas in which the two countries can assist and provide necessary training and arrange capacity building courses and workshops for professionals. For this purpose, the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi already visited Pakistan and Afghanistan last year in June to spearhead groundwork on this project.
It is in the mutual interest of both Pakistan and Afghanistan to conduct peaceful bilateral relations, for aptly achieving regional stability and human progress. Keeping this goal in perspective, Pakistan seeks to extend a friendly hand of cooperation to its worn-torn neighbour. Millions of Afghanis have so far received quality education within the sovereignty of Pakistan and emerged on top.
This year, on May 10, the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) organised a graduation ceremony of 74 Afghan students who successfully completed their education from various well reputed Pakistani institutions, in this year alone.
To name a few; the current President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani completed his one year fieldwork on Pakistani Madrasas from Pakistan as a Fulbright scholar in 1895; current Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah completed his year-long internship programme from Veterinary Hospital in Peshawar; National Directorate of Security (NDS) Chief Masoom Stanikzai received his Master’s degree from Preston University; and lastly, the current Afghan Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal also resided in Peshawar from 1984 till 1991 as a refugee and obtained his primary education in Pakistan. This highlights the endorsing nature of Pakistan’s bilateral rhetoric with Afghanistan and the significance of fostering relations.
Moreover, Pakistan provides scholarship programmes as well as financial capacity building of Afghan universities. A $500 million support package was granted by Pakistan, as reiterated by Mr. Sartaj Aziz. About 156 universities, including 36 in public sector and 120 in private sector are gaining from it. As Afghanistan has the lowest literacy rate in females, Pakistan initiated a special female scholarship scheme to help assist its neighbour.
However, such details are not highlighted very often and the Pak-Afghan relations seem dense on the surface. Afghan political and security leadership is adamant on blaming Pakistan for all the ills in the Afghan society but always fail to recognise the good contributions of Pakistan in Afghanistan. It reflects a bad picture of Pakistan due to the anti-Pakistan narrative in the country so heavily infused by external entities.
Despite the negative manoeuvring done against Pakistan by Afghanistan and the latter letting its soil used against the former, Pakistan is still determined to provide more assistance to its fellow Muslim neighbour, but it is high time that Pakistan is given due credit and its efforts recognised.
There is a dire need to uphold Pakistan’s educational assistance through print and electronic media. The graduation ceremonies could prove essential in presenting a soft image of the country and develop goodwill amongst the citizens of both countries. While politically, Afghanistan reiterates that Pakistan is of not much use, it relies heavily on education from Pakistan. Mr. Ghani needs to highlight Pakistan’s role in assistance and not play into the hands of the dividing forces. Reciprocity is the key norm and it is only through recognition and appreciation of each other’s good efforts and overtures can both countries establish trust and a long-lasting cordial relationship which is imperative for regional peace and national progress.
Mr. Muhammad Taimur Khan is a freelance journalist. He holds an M. Phil Degree in International Relations from National Defence University, Islamabad. He wrote many research articles, Policy Briefs, Issue Briefs, Book Reviews and Monographs on topics related to International Relations. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.