Top students in other cities, Afghan refugees not allowed secondary education in Karachi

An Afghan refugee boy looks from a mud house at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Karachi on June 20, 2018, on the World Refugees Day. (AFP)
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Updated 02 August 2020
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Top students in other cities, Afghan refugees not allowed secondary education in Karachi

  • Karachi and Sindh province have come in the spotlight after Afghan refugee topped matriculation exams in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province
  • Authorities say no Sindh-wide restrictions on access to education but most of Sindh’s 60,000 refugees live in Karachi where de facto rules discriminate

KARACHI: Last month, when an Afghan refugee boy became one of the top matriculation exam scorers in Mardan city in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Asma Rahimi was happy for him. But the feeling was also bittersweet.
Like the boy from Mardan, she too is the child of Afghan refugees. But unlike him, she might not be able to complete secondary education in the city where she lives: Pakistan’s teeming port metropolis of Karachi in the southern Sindh province.




Asma Rahimi, a 14-year-old Afghan refugee, is doing her homework while she talks to Arab News in Karachi on July 29, 2020 (AN Photo) 

Education is a provincial subject and admission rules differ across Pakistan. While children face no legal obstacles to education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, which host most of Pakistan’s Afghan refugees, in Sindh many said they had little chance of completing secondary school because of de facto rules.
“I won’t be able to study ahead,” Rahimi, currently in the eighth grade, told Arab News. “This will be my last year, I cannot study onward.”
Rahimi’s family moved to Pakistan three decades ago, fleeing armed conflict in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province, which is now dominated by the Taliban militant group.
About 2.5 million Afghans, many of whom fled their homeland after it was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1979, live in Pakistan, home to the world’s second-largest refugee population.
In 2018, soon after coming to power, Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed to grant citizenship to Afghan refugees who have lived in the country for several decades. Almost two years later, that promise remains unfulfilled.
Afghans have long complained about constant harassment and lack of opportunities in Pakistan due to the lack of citizenship rights for those who have spent decades living and working here. The problems — particularly of discrimination, racial profiling and the inability to open bank accounts or buy and rent property without proper identification documents — are spread across Pakistani cities and are not limited to Sindh province alone.
But the recent case of the Mardan matriculation exam topper has put Karachi’s problems in the spotlight.
Rahimi said her sister studied at the city’s Syed Jamaluddin Afghani School for refugees, which is registered with the Afghan ministry of education and offers classes up to grade 12. However, the school’s certification is not recognized by Pakistan.
“If anyone wants to study ahead, he or she will have to go to Afghanistan,” Syed Mustafa, principal of the school, told Arab News, adding that many parents thus had no option but to send their kids to religious seminaries to continue their education.
Rahimi says he wants to go to university and become a psychologist. So instead of joining the refugee school, she enrolled in Alama Iqbal Public School in Karachi, only to realize that even though there was no official restriction, a de facto ban precluded her from studying beyond grade eight.




Asma Rahimi is speaking to Arab News in Karachi, July 29, 2020. She wants to study and become a psychologist, but in Karachi she may be unable to even complete secondary education. (AN Photo) 

In 2012, the Board of Secondary Education in Karachi (BSEK), which is the authority responsible for the registration of private and government schools in the city, made it mandatory for ninth grade students to possess a Child Registration Certificate, commonly referred to as Form-B, which serves as an identity document for those below the age of 18. Refugee children cannot obtain it.
According to Professor Saeeduddin, chairman of the BSEK, the decision was made at the request of the provincial government so students could not get Pakistani nationality simply on the basis of educational credentials.
“If an immigrant does his matriculation, he then may say that since he has done his matric from Karachi, he should be granted nationality,” Saeeduddin said.




Afghan refugee Zahra Arif, 13, is speaking to Arab News in Karachi on July 29, 2020. She wants to finish school and become a civil engineer. (AN Photo) 

Muhammad Riazuddin, secretary at the Universities and Boards Department Sindh, denied there was any regulation barring refugees from studying beyond the secondary level in the province. He said Sindh was an inclusive province and “strongly believes in children’s right to education, which is not only enshrined in the UN charters but also the constitution of Pakistan.”
“The National Alien Registration Authority (NARA) cards give legal immigrants the right to have electricity, gas and water connections as well as to obtain education,” he said, adding that the same applies for Afghan refugees who have Proof of Registration (PoR) cards.
But students say while there may be no provincial restrictions, the rules in Karachi effectively prevent Afghan kids in Sindh from studying beyond a point because most of the province’s 60,000 Afghan refugees live in the port city.
“We are not allowed to get education. I cannot study here,” Zahra Arif, a seventh grader at Syed Jamaluddin Afghani School, told Arab News.
“I want to become an engineer. I will make houses for the poor,” she said, adding that she was born in Pakistan and had never even visited Afghanistan.
Unlike her, Rahimi has been to Afghanistan and spent three months there. “Our uncle asked us to stay, but there was no school or college and everyone was illiterate, so my father took us back as he wants us to study, to change our society,” she said.
With a wry smile she added: “I want to study, I want to become something in life.”


Pakistan refiners warn $6 bln upgrades at risk due to fuel price deregulation plan

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Pakistan refiners warn $6 bln upgrades at risk due to fuel price deregulation plan

  • Regulatory authority proposes oil marketers, refineries be allowed to set prices instead of government 
  • Refiners demand they be consulted before the implementation of “irrational recommendations”

KARACHI: Pakistan’s plans to deregulate fuel prices could lead refiners to halt planned upgrades worth up to $6 billion and force some refineries to close, some of the country’s top refiners said in a letter to the country’s oil regulator.

Looking to drive down prices for consumers, the South Asian nation’s Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) has proposed that oil marketers and refineries be allowed to set fuel prices, instead of the government setting prices.

As part of the change, OGRA proposed scrapping or reviewing a rule that requires fuel buyers to purchase supply from local refineries, another issue the refiners said could result in “disastrous consequences.”

The refiners — state-run Pakistan Refinery and private domestic refiners Pak Arab Refinery, Attock Refinery, Cinergyco, and National Refinery — said they were already struggling to operate near full capacity and asked that they be consulted before the implementation of “irrational recommendations.”

“The refining sector requires OGRA support through pragmatic and supportive measures, rather than suggesting ways that if implemented would result in their permanent closure,” the refiners told OGRA on Monday in a letter, which was reviewed by Reuters.

The deregulation was aimed at boosting competition and protecting the public interest, OGRA told Reuters in a statement on Tuesday, but did not respond to specific questions on the letter from the refiners. However, it said in an April 17 presentation reviewed by Reuters the potential impact of deregulation on refinery upgrades had to be assessed carefully, calling it a challenge.

“The refineries upgradation will bring in investment of $5 — 6 billion and not only result in cleaner environment friendly fuels but also result in savings of precious foreign exchange of the country,” the refiners wrote in the letter to OGRA.


Pakistan hopes to get new IMF loan by early July, says finance minister

Updated 55 min 49 sec ago
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Pakistan hopes to get new IMF loan by early July, says finance minister

  • Pakistan’s current $3 billion financial arrangement with IMF expires in late April
  • Islamabad is seeking “bigger,” long-term loan to ensure macroeconomic stability

Pakistan is hoping to reach a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund by June or early July, its finance minister said on Tuesday.

The country’s current $3 billion arrangement with the fund runs out in late-April, which it secured last summer to avert a sovereign default.

Islamabad is seeking a long-term bigger loan to help bring permanence to macroeconomic stability as well as an umbrella under which the country can execute structural reforms.

“We are still hoping that we get a staff-level agreement by June or early July,” Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb told a conference in Islamabad.

He returned from Washington last week after leading a team to attend the IMF and World Bank’s spring meetings. “We had very good discussions in Washington,” he said.

He said he did not know at this stage the volume and tenure of the longer program.


Pakistan ‘rarely’ punished officials for rights abuses in 2023— State Department report

Updated 23 April 2024
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Pakistan ‘rarely’ punished officials for rights abuses in 2023— State Department report

  • US State Department releases annual “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” for the year 2023
  • Report says Pakistan witnessed extrajudicial killings, torture and restrictions on media freedoms last year

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government “rarely” took steps to identify and punish officials who may have been involved in rights abuses in 2023, a report released by the US State Department said on Tuesday, pointing out incidents of extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances, violence against journalists and restrictions on media freedom had taken place in the country last year. 

US Department of State released its annual “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” to highlight rights issues in several countries, including Pakistan. In the report, Washington identified that Pakistan last year witnessed arbitrary killings, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, torture and “cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government or its agents.”

“The government rarely took credible steps to identify and punish officials who may have committed human rights abuses,” the report said. 

Cases of “enforced disappearances” of citizens have long plagued Pakistan, where militants have waged a war against the state for decades. Families say people picked up by security forces often disappear for years, and are sometimes found dead, with no official explanation. Pakistani security agencies deny involvement in such disappearances.

The report also pointed out that last year Pakistan had seen incidents of restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom, violence against journalists, unjustified arrests, disappearances of journalists, censorship and criminal defamation laws. 

Pakistan’s recent actions to restrict Internet and mobile services throughout the country, especially on days when elections are held, have invited criticism from rights organizations and Washington. The interior ministry last week confirmed it had banned social media platform X in February to protect national security, maintain public order, and preserve the country’s “integrity.”

The State Department report further pointed out that rights issues in Pakistan during 2023 included extensive gender-based violence, including domestic or intimate partner violence, sexual violence, early, child and forced marriages. It said Pakistan had also reported incidents of female genital mutilation and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of religious, racial and ethnic minorities. 

The report added that violence, abuse and social and religious intolerance by militant organizations and other non-state actors, both local and foreign, contributed to a culture of lawlessness in the country. 

“Terrorist and cross-border militant attacks against civilians, soldiers, and police caused hundreds of casualties,” the report noted, crediting Pakistan’s military, police and other law enforcement agencies for carrying out “significant campaigns” against militants last year. 

The South Asian country has seen an uptick in violence, mainly suicide attacks, since November 2022 when a fragile truce between militants and the state broke down. Pakistan has since then carried out military operations against the Pakistani Taliban or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and a Baloch separatist militant organization, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) in the country’s two western provinces that border Afghanistan.


Iranian president in Lahore on second day of official visit to Pakistan

Updated 35 min 3 sec ago
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Iranian president in Lahore on second day of official visit to Pakistan

  • On Monday, Islamabad and Tehran signed eight accords including on trade, technology, health, culture, information 
  • Interior ministers of Pakistan and Iran agree on joint action plan to deal with terrorism, smuggling, drug trafficking 

ISLAMABAD: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi arrived in Lahore on Tuesday on the second day of a three-day visit to Pakistan where he will meet top government officials and business leaders before traveling to the country’s commercial hub, Karachi. 

Raisi arrived in Islamabad on Monday on a three-day visit as the two Muslim neighbors seek to mend ties after unprecedented tit-for-tat military strikes earlier this year. The Iranian official’s visit is the first by any head of state to Pakistan after the South Asian nation’s February general elections and the formation of a new government headed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. The visit also comes as tensions are high in the Middle East after Iran launched airstrikes on Israel a week ago and Israel retaliated with its own attack on Friday.

“Iranian President Syed Ibrahim Raisi has reached Lahore,” state television PTV reported, where he was received by Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz. 

The Iranian president began his Lahore trip by visiting the mausoleum of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Pakistan’s national poet, whose literary works in the Persian language have garnered him wide recognition in Iran.

After meetings in Lahore, Raisi will travel to Karachi, where he will hold meetings with the provincial leadership and be awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Karachi, state-run Radio Pakistan reported. 

Commuters ride past a welcoming billboard displaying an image of the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi along a street in Karachi on April 22, 2024. (AFP)

On Monday, Raisi held delegation-level meetings in the Pakistani capital as well as one-on-one discussions with the prime minister, president, army chief, chairman senate and speaker national assembly. 

He also witnessed the signing of eight MoUs and agreements covering different fields including trade, science technology, agriculture, health, culture, and judicial matters. These include an MoU on the establishment of the Rimdan-Gabd Joint Free/Special Zone; on cooperation between the Ministry of Cooperative Labour and Social Welfare of Iran and the Ministry of Overseas Pakistani and Human Resources Development of Pakistan; on judicial assistance and legal cooperation at the ministry levels; on cooperation for animal hygiene and health; on mutual recognition in the field of quarantine and phytosanitary; and on the promotion of culture and films.

“The economic and trade volume between Iran and Pakistan is not acceptable at all and we have decided at the first step to increase the trade volume between our two countries to $10 billion,” Raisi said at a joint press conference with Sharif. 

The interior ministers of Pakistan and Iran also met on Monday and discussed border management to prevent smuggling and drugs trafficking, and “decided in principle to ban terrorist organizations in their respective countries,” state news wire APP said.

“The two sides agreed on a joint plan of action to deal with the menace of terrorism being a common problem, with further improving mutual support and exchange of intelligence information.”

A security agreement regarding this decision would be signed “at the earliest,” APP added. 

Pakistan and Iran have had a history of rocky relations despite a number of commercial pacts, with Islamabad being historically closer to Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Their highest profile agreement is a stalled gas supply deal signed in 2010 to build a pipeline from Iran’s South Fars gas field to Pakistan’s southern provinces of Balochistan and Sindh.

Pakistan and Iran are also often at odds over instability on their shared porous border, with both countries routinely trading blame for not rooting out militancy.

Tensions surged in January when Pakistan and Iran exchanged airstrikes, both claiming to target alleged militant hideouts in each other’s countries. Both sides have since then undertaken peace overtures and restored bilateral ties.


Pakistani, UAE officials perform groundbreaking of bulk and general cargo terminal in Karachi

Updated 18 min 15 sec ago
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Pakistani, UAE officials perform groundbreaking of bulk and general cargo terminal in Karachi

  • Pakistan’s maritime affairs minister says UAE’s investment an important “breakthrough” that has increased interest of other players
  • Multi-purpose terminal will handle grains, fertilizers and other kinds of export and import, says official of company operating terminal

KARACHI: Pakistani and United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials performed the groundbreaking of a $175 million Bulk and General Cargo terminal on Monday, describing it as an “important breakthrough” for the South Asian country in the maritime sector. 

Under a government-to-government (G2G) agreement between Pakistan and the UAE earlier this year, a new 25-year concession agreement was signed between AD Ports Group and Karachi Port Trust (KPT) in Feb. 2024 to outsource operations of the bulk and general cargo terminal.

Under the terms of the agreement, Karachi Gateway Terminal Multipurpose Limited (KGTML), a joint venture between AD Ports Group, as a majority shareholder, and Kaheel Terminals, a UAE-based company, will develop, operate and manage the Bulk and General Cargo Terminal, berths 11 to 17 at Karachi Port’s East Wharf. The move is expected to enhance Karachi’s position as a key player in the maritime industry.

Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh, Pakistan’s minister of maritime affairs, unveiled the KGTML plaque at Karachi Port on Monday, describing the UAE’s investment as a “very important breakthrough” which has increased the interest of other players in the maritime sector.

“This investment from Abu Dhabi Ports is very important for Pakistan, it is a breakthrough,” Sheikh told Arab News at the sidelines of the event. “It is the first investment in terminal and following this, there are many other companies who are also interested in Pakistan.”

The minister shared that Maersk Line, the largest owner and operator of US flag vessels, has also expressed interest in investing in Pakistan.

“We are looking forward to investment from other companies like, you see, other shipping lines,” Sheikh said. “We are having a meeting (on Apr. 25) with Maersk Line and we are also expecting (investment).”

Khurram Aziz Khan, KGTL’s chief executive officer, said AD Ports plans to invest about $157 million for the bulk terminal’s development, adding that it would handle all kinds of bulk cargo.

“This is basically a multi-purpose terminal which will not only handle grains but also fertilizers and other kinds of export and import, dirty or clean cargo as well,” Khan told Arab News.

“We are making a long-term investment to make it a regional hub not only for containers but also for the multi-purpose facilities,” Khan explained, adding that the project, once completed, will also save the time and cost of doing business.

He informed that AD Ports has an overall plan of investing about $395 million in the development of the container and cargo terminal.

“We have an overall plan of $220 million investment in the container terminal and $175 million of investment in the multi-purpose bulk terminal,” the KGTL chief said.

AD Ports Group also presented Sheikh a cheque for the upfront fee payment amounting to $50 million payable to KPT as per the terms outlined in the Agreement for Outsourcing of Operations of Bulk and General Cargo Terminal.

Abdul Aziz Baloshi, chief executive officer of Fujairah Terminals, AD Ports Group, said the group was expanding its operations in Pakistan.

“Progress will be made through investment in the supply chain,” Baloshi said at the event. “Karachi port is the future of Pakistan and Pakistan is included in our priority list in the region.”

UAE’s Consul General Bakheet Atiq Al-Remeithi said Emirati investors are interested in investing on a large scale in Pakistan. He said their areas of interest included ports and shipping, railways, and other infrastructure.

“Apart from port investments, investments will be made in railway infrastructure, export zones, and other sectors,” Al-Remeithi shared.

 The port operator hoped that the facilities will help Pakistan become the regional hub for handling export and import of cargoes from Central Asian countries.

The agreement for the construction of the Bulk and General Cargo terminal at the Karachi port was based on the concession agreement secured by AD Ports Group to develop, operate and manage container terminal at berths 6-10 at Karachi port’s East Wharf in June 2023.

AD Ports Group had signed a 50-year concession agreement with KPT to secure the terminal’s operations.