Families of Pakistani students in China fear for children's well-being

Pakistani students attend a class at Yanshan University in Qinhuangdao, Hebei Province, China Dec. 14, 2017. (Photo Courtesy: VCG Photo/File)
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Updated 15 March 2020

Families of Pakistani students in China fear for children's well-being

  • As coronavirus breaks out, foreign office says over 28000 Pakistani students are in China
  • The country’s embassy in Beijing has asked students to avoid unnecessary movement

ISLAMABAD: Families of Pakistanis living in China have expressed grave concern over the well-being of their loved ones due to the outbreak of coronavirus in different Chinese provinces.
“We are worried about the health of our daughter who is studying at Xiamen University since 2018,” Rawalpindi-based Zahoor Ahmad, father of Maham Zahoor who is pursuing her Master’s degree in international relations, told Arab News on Saturday. “I talked to her this morning and advised her to remain indoors and avoid unnecessary movement, especially to markets and other public places.”
The coronavirus, which emerged in December, has now spread to other countries, but the majority of cases and all 41 deaths have been reported in China.
The Chinese authorities shut down transportation from Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province, hoping to contain the spread of virus, and have since expanded the lockdown to other cities, covering a total population of about 35 million.
The World Health Organization described the outbreak as an emergency for China, though it stopped short of declaring it as a public health emergency of international concern.
“There are approximately 28000 Pakistani students studying all over China, around 800 resident traders and around 1500 Pakistani traders who travel to China frequently. There are close to 500 students in Wuhan alone,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said in a statement on Saturday.
She added that these numbers excluded those students, visitors and traders from Pakistan who were present in China without registering themselves with Pakistan’s diplomatic mission in Beijing.
The Pakistan mission also issued an advisory to Pakistanis living in China on January 24.
“The embassy urges Pakistani students to remain vigilant and adopt good personal hygiene practices such as those shared by the ministry of health of China through its advisory. Pakistani community members and students in Wuhan are advised to comply with the efforts of Chinese authorities and not leave the city without any particular reason,” the Pakistan embassy said in a statement, adding that the mission would continue to stay in touch with its nationals and students.
“There are around 800 Pakistani students in Wuhan, but many of them have gone to their country due to the Chinese new year holidays. We are facing problems as we have been asked to remain in our hostels. We are facing acute shortage of food as shops and restaurants are closed due to the blockade of the city,” Muhammad Atiq, who is doing PhD in Public Administration from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, told Arab News on phone from China.
Atiq added that his family in Pakistan was worried because Wuhan was deeply affected by the epidemic.
“The university promised to provide us special masks, but we haven’t received them yet as air traffic, railways and even taxi services are closed in the city. We even could not offer Friday prayers since all sorts of gatherings have been banned in the city,” he said.
A government school principal, Mumtaz Begum, from southern Punjab city of Bahawalpur, whose daughter Mahnoor Sajwar is studying in Peking University, Beijing, expressed her serious concerns for the health of her daughter while speaking to Arab News on the phone.
“I want her to come back to Pakistan, but she has her exams in a couple of months. I have asked her to remain inside her apartment, wear a mask and avoid going to public places. We all are praying for her health as the virus is spreading to the whole of China,” she said.
Sohail Shaukat, a Pakistani businessman from Karachi told Arab News that he used to visit China at least once in a month for his import and export business, but he decided to cancel his trip due to the outbreak.
Madah-ul-Mustafa, a student in South China University of Technology, Guanzhou, who landed in Multan Friday night, told Arab News that he was screened extensively by the airport authorities in Pakistan.
“I came back from China with my wife last night as we were unable to figure out how to deal with the outbreak. I have to go back on 8th February, but now I will assess the situation and then plan to return to the university,” Mustafa said.

Afghanistan says Pakistan scholarship scheme will have 'positive' impact on bilateral ties

Updated 26 October 2020

Afghanistan says Pakistan scholarship scheme will have 'positive' impact on bilateral ties

  • Over 16,000 Afghan students have applied for the Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship which offers grants to 800 undergraduate, 150 Masters and 50 PhD students this year
  • Afghanistan’s special envoy for Pakistan urges Pakistan government to increase the number of scholarships in medicine and engineering

PESHAWAR: Mohammed Umer Daudzai, Afghanistan’s special envoy for Pakistan, on Monday lauded a Pakistani scholarship for Afghan nationals, saying it would have a ‘positive impact’ on the bilateral relationship and on the lives of the people of Afghanistan.

According to Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC), over 16,000 Afghan students have applied for the Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarships in Pakistan, which offers 800 undergraduate, 150 Masters and 50 PhD grants.

The programme was launched in 2009, and 5,000 Afghans have so far benefited from it, gaining degrees in various fields including medicine and engineering. At least 100 seats are reserved for female students as part of the scholarship each year.

“The 800 scholarship this year that Pakistan has offered to Afghanistan is very important; it will have a very positive impact on bilateral relationships,” Daudzai told Arab News on Monday. “It will have a great impact on the life of people of Afghanistan because ... a significant number of these scholarships are in medicine and engineering which is very important for us.”

He added: “The Pakistani scholarship for Afghans is cheapest and most feasible because of the two countries' proximity. Afghan students can travel to their home country easily without involving huge expenses.” 

He also urged the Pakistan government to increase the number of scholarships in medicine and engineering.

“We noticed that a significant number of the youths that participated in this year's scholarship are Afghan girls, which is important,” Daudzai said. “It’s indicative of the trust that families in Afghanistan have to send their daughters to Pakistan."

Afghan students attend a pre-orientation session at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on October 24, 2020 for the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship program for academic year 2020-21. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Embassy Kabul)

Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship Programme for Afghan Nationals was a “valuable” contribution to develop Afghanistan’s human resource sector.

“Pakistan has already contributed in the neighboring country’s development. And this (scholarship) programme will help develop Afghanistan’s human resource sector,” Chaudhri added.

Last week at the pre-orientation programme organized in honor of Afghan students at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan said more than 50,000 Afghans educated in Pakistan were now serving Afghanistan’s public and private sectors.

In this October 24, 2020 photo, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan, addresses a pre-orientation session for 800 Afghan students (not in photo) selected under the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship program for academic year 2020-21. (Photo courtesy: Pak Embassy Kabul)

Farzana Sharifi, an Afghan female student at COMSATS University Abbottabad, told Arab News that many Afghan students were keen to study at Pakistani educational institutions because of the quality of the universities and low costs.

However, she said Pakistani institutions needed to start orientation classes to prepare Afghans better to speak and understand Urdu and English.

“Special orientation classes need to be arranged for newcomers so they become familiar with the language of the medium of the particular university,” Sharifi said. “In addition, our students should be given special incentives while crossing the border or traveling in Pakistan.”

Ahmad Milad Azizi, a networking officer at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in Kabul who graduated with bachelors degree in computer science from a Pakistani university in 2015, said the scholarship programme for Afghan students was also a great opportunity for Afghans to learn about Pakistani culture.

“Islamabad needs to explore measures to ease students’ travel from and to Pakistan,” he added. “I suggest the government of Pakistan increase the number of scholarships because our country direly needs qualified manpower and professionals.”