Landslide in northern Pakistan buries bus, 16 killed

Rescuers search for the bodies of the victims following a landslide on the Jaglot-Skardu road in the Tangos area on Oct. 18, 2020. At least 16 people were killed when a passenger coaster was forced off road by a landslide in a mountainous area of northern Pakistan. (AFP)
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Updated 18 October 2020

Landslide in northern Pakistan buries bus, 16 killed

  • Minibus was traveling from Rawalpindi to Skardu in Gilgit Baltistan 
  • Rescue workers dug for hours in hopes of finding survivors, but called off the search late Sunday

ISLAMABAD: A landslide in northern Pakistan on Sunday buried a minibus under tons of mud and rock, killing all 16 people on board, police said.

Rescue workers dug for hours in hopes of finding survivors, but called off the search late Sunday after recovering 16 bodies, including the driver and four soldiers traveling to their posts, said local police officer Wakil Khan.

The bus was pushed into a deep ditch and buried along a mountainous road while traveling to the scenic town of Skardu in the Gilgit Baltistan region from the city of Rawalpindi in Punjab province, he said.

Local administrator Miraj Alam said the bodies were being transferred to the district hospital, and that the Jaglot-Skardu road in the Tangos area where the landslide took place was being cleared.

Road accidents are common in Pakistan, mainly due to insufficient enforcement of safety standards and poor infrastructure, particularly on battered mountain roads. In March, a passenger bus tumbled off a winding mountainous road and into a ravine in northern Pakistan, killing at least 19 people and injuring several others.

Landslides after heavy monsoon rain are also common in the country and cause widespread damage mountainous areas.

Skardu is located in a complex of mountain ranges that includes the Himalayas, and the town is the gateway to K2, the world’s highest peak after Mt. Everest. Large numbers of local and foreign tourists visit the peak annually. Skardu is around 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.


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.”