Saudi-funded campus in Azad Kashmir helps close gender gap in science

An exterior view of King Abdullah Campus of the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir in Chhatar Kalas, Pakistan, on January 14, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)
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Updated 25 January 2022

Saudi-funded campus in Azad Kashmir helps close gender gap in science

  • The campus hosting mainly science departments started classes in September 2020
  • It was completed with funding from the Saudi Development Fund worth $51 million

MUZAFFARABAD: A Saudi-funded campus of the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir is fostering science education in the region and female enrollment into the male-dominated field, as nearly half of its students are women — higher than the global average.

The multimillion-dollar King Abdullah Campus in Chhatar Kalas, 22 kilometers from Muzaffarabad, the regional capital was financed by Saudi Arabia, which has funded several development projects in Azad Kashmir, helping it return to normalcy after a devastating earthquake in 2005 destroyed most of its infrastructure, including the university. 

Built on nearly 100 hectares, the campus was completed in late 2019, and started classes in September 2020.

"King Abdullah Campus was completed with the financial help of Saudi Development Fund worth 9 billion rupees ($51 million)," Raja Abdul Qayyum Khan, director of the campus, told Arab News.

The campus now hosts most of the university's 9,000 students and is home to its science departments, including physics, computer science, mathematics, chemistry, and geology, which see female enrollment higher than in other parts of Pakistan, or even the world.




A student stands in front of the Department of Mathematics at King Abdullah Campus of the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir in Chhatar Kalas, Pakistan, on January 14, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

Globally, only 35 percent of STEM students in higher education are women, according to UNESCO data. At King Abdullah Campus, women constitute 47 percent of all students.

"Out of a total 5,440 students enrolled in King Abdullah Campus, there are 2,877 males and 2,563 females. That speaks volumes about girls' participation," Khan said. "We would like to see that ratio further increase."

After the earthquake destruction, many students of the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir had to travel far to other campuses — some even to Islamabad — to attend courses. 

With social norms and safety concerns limiting women's mobility across Pakistan, traveling alone tens of kilometers from home was nearly impossible for girls. 




Students attend a class at a computer lab of King Abdullah Campus of the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir in Chhatar Kalas, Pakistan, on January 14, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

"The establishment of King Abdullah Campus at Chhattar Kalas has given advantage to me and many other girl students," 19-year-old mathematics student Samar Qayum told Arab News, explaining that traveling long distance was for them a major burden.

"It was possible that the number of female students would have gone down in this region," she said. "This facility has made life easier for girls."

Boys, too, are happy.

Physics student Waqar Younis said the establishment of the campus allowed him to save on transportation and accommodation, as those were major costs for the students.

"Establishment of King Abdullah Campus has given me multiple advantages," he added.

In the near future, the campus is likely to become even more attractive as $8.5 million computer science labs should be ready this year

The nine labs will be equipped with 600 computers, allowing the study of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

"We are hopeful that by this year in August we may get the equipment," Dr. Rabia Riaz, head of the Department of Computer Science and Information Technology, told Arab News.

"I may say that this sort of equipment and building structure is not only unavailable in whole Azad Kashmir, but also in all over Pakistan."


Saudi Arabia to restore Pakistan’s pre-coronavirus quota of Hajj pilgrims in 2023 — official

Updated 15 sec ago

Saudi Arabia to restore Pakistan’s pre-coronavirus quota of Hajj pilgrims in 2023 — official

  • Over 179,210 Pakistanis will be able to perform Hajj in 2023, says government official 
  • Written agreement to be signed next month during Hajj conference in Jeddah, he says

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia would increase Pakistan’s quota of pilgrims for next year's Hajj pilgrimage to almost 180,000, as the kingdom seeks to revive the old Hajj quota of countries around the world to pre-pandemic levels, a senior official of Pakistan’s religion ministry confirmed on Wednesday. 

The Hajj is a spiritual journey that every Muslim adult must undertake once in his lifetime, to the holy sites in Makkah and Madinah, if he is financially and physically able to do so. It is one of the important five pillars of Islamic faith.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the Hajj was restricted to just 1,000 local residents. Last year, the kingdom limited the pilgrimage to 60,000 domestic participants, compared with the pre-coronavirus pandemic figure of 2.5 million.

For this year’s Hajj, Saudi Arabia allowed 1 million people from both within and outside the kingdom to perform the pilgrimage. These included 83,132 Pakistani pilgrims. 

Secretary Religious Affairs, Aftab Akbar Durrani, told Arab News that Pakistan received a “verbal intimation” last week from a Saudi delegation, in a virtual meeting, that Pakistan's quota for Hajj pilgrims would be increased.

The Saudi delegation was led by Dr. Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat, Saudi deputy minister for Hajj and Umrah.

“They [Saudi officials] have informed us that they are reviving the old Hajj quota for the whole world including Pakistan,” Durrani said. 

After the revival of the pre-coronavirus Hajj quota, over 179,210 Pakistanis would be able to perform the pilgrimage next year, he said. However, Durrani added that Pakistan is yet to receive written confirmation from the Saudi authorities. 

“The written agreement will be signed in this regard with the Saudi government during a Hajj conference which is taking place next month on January 9 in Jeddah,” Durrani said.

Durrani added that either Pakistan’s religious affairs minister or he would represent Pakistan at the conference where all Hajj-related details would be finalized with the kingdom’s officials.

“We are also trying to reduce Hajj expenses for pilgrims which will also be finalized during the visit,” the official added.


Japan announces $38.9 million grant for Pakistan’s flood victims

Updated 07 December 2022

Japan announces $38.9 million grant for Pakistan’s flood victims

  • Floods in Pakistan earlier this year killed over 1,700, demolished millions of homes
  • Japan says will support Pakistan’s floods victims with international organizations

ISLAMABAD: Japan announced a grant assistance of $38.9 million for Pakistan as part of the country’s efforts to deliver life-saving aid to flood victims, the Japanese embassy in Pakistan announced on Tuesday.

Unusually heavy rains and melting glaciers during the monsoon season in Pakistan this year triggered flash floods in many parts of the country. Over 1,700 people were killed while millions of houses were swept away by raging currents.

The floods, as per Pakistan’s estimates, inflicted losses of up to $30 billion on the country. Millions were displaced from their homes while thousands continue to suffer from water-borne and vector-borne diseases.

Pakistan has appealed to the international community for aid to mitigate the massive losses caused to it by the floods.

“On December 2, the Government of Japan announced its plan to provide grant assistance of USD 38.9 million to Pakistan as part of Japan’s supplementary budget to deliver life-saving aid to the flood victims,” the Embassy of Japan in Pakistan said in a statement.

It said Japan would support flood victims in various social and economic dimensions in partnership with international organizations across Pakistan’s four provinces and in its capital city, Islamabad.

The embassy said an amount of $34.2 million would be provided for emergency medical assistance, food distribution, agriculture and livestock restoration, livelihood recreation, and gender-based violence risk mitigation and response.

“In order to ensure the rapid rollout to reach the most vulnerable, these projects will commence in January 2023,” it added.

Japan, the embassy said, would also provide support through JICA, equivalent to USD 4.7 million, for recovery from the floods in health, agriculture, education, gender, and resilient disaster management.


Pakistan could be world’s sixth largest economy by 2075— Goldman Sachs report

Updated 07 December 2022

Pakistan could be world’s sixth largest economy by 2075— Goldman Sachs report

  • China to overtake US as world’s largest economy by 2050, report says
  • Climate catastrophe, populist nationalists in power risk to projections

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan could be the sixth largest economy in the world by 2075, according to a report compiled by renowned US investment banking firm Goldman Sachs earlier this week.

Titled ‘The Path to 75’, the research report predicts the state of the global economy in the decades to come and goes as far as 2075. 

According to the report, China will dethrone the US in 2050 to become the largest economy in the world. However, by 2075, the report predicts the largest economies in the world would be China, India, the US, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan.

“By 2075, with the appropriate policies and institutions, Nigeria, Pakistan and Egypt could be among the world’s largest economies,” it stated. The prediction regarding Pakistan’s growth was made due to the country’s population growth in the years to come.

The report warned, however, that climate catastrophes and populist leaders were risks to its projections.
It added that populist nationalists in power may lead to increased protectionism that could potentially result in the reversal of globalization which could increase income inequality across countries.

Furthermore, Goldman Sachs predicted that global growth will average just under 3 percent a year over the next decade, down from 3.6 percent in the decade before the financial crisis. The report said that global growth would be on a gradually declining path afterwards, reflecting a slowing of the labor force growth.

In another key projection, the report said that emerging markets would continue to converge with industrial nations as China, the US, India, Indonesia and Germany top the league table of the largest economies when measured in dollars.

Nigeria, Pakistan and Egypt could also be among the biggest, it added.


Saudi Arabia committed to averting Pakistan’s economic crisis— ex-envoy Ali Asseri

Updated 07 December 2022

Saudi Arabia committed to averting Pakistan’s economic crisis— ex-envoy Ali Asseri

  • Pakistani PM has ability, courage and will to take country forward, ex-Saudi envoy says
  • Ambassador highlights ongoing ‘major transformation’ in Pak-Saudi economic relations

Saudi Arabia is committed to rescuing Pakistan’s economy and help the country achieve political and economic stability, Dr. Ali Awadh Asseri, Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to Pakistan, said on Wednesday.

The statement from the ex-Saudi envoy comes at a time when the South Asian nation reels from dwindling foreign exchange reserves, a depreciating currency and a ballooning current account deficit amid soaring inflation.

To make matters worse, torrential rains in mid-June triggered flash floods across the country, killing over 1,700, destroying millions of homes and washing away large swathes of crops. Pakistan estimates losses from the climate disaster to be over $30 billion.

Speaking at the Islamabad Conclave organized by the Institute of Strategic Studies, Asseri said it was crucial for Pakistan to achieve economic stability as it brings about political stability and can help Pakistan safeguard its national security.

“This is clear from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s personal resolve for not only addressing Pakistan’s immediate financial needs but also guaranteeing long-term investments in the energy sector,” he said.

Asseri said PM Shehbaz Sharif has the “ability, courage and will” to take Pakistan forward. “He can count on the Saudi nation and its leadership for whatever support is needed for economic and political stability,” he added.

Asseri pointed out that the Saudi Vision 2030 offered “enormous opportunities” for Pakistan’s trade and investment relationship with the kingdom. He said it was a chance for the South Asian nation to employ its skilled manpower in mega development projects.

He said a major transformation is underway in Pak-Saudi economic relations. Asseri said Riyadh was eyeing long-term investments in Pakistan.

“The Saudi leadership is committed to $20 billion dollars investment in refinery, petrochemical complex, mining and renewable energy projects in Pakistan,” he said.


Babar Azam reclaims number 3 position in ICC Test batter rankings

Updated 07 December 2022

Babar Azam reclaims number 3 position in ICC Test batter rankings

  • Babar Azam scored 136 runs in Pakistan’s first innings against England
  • Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne secures top spot in Test batter’s ranking

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s all-format captain Babar Azam on Wednesday reclaimed the third spot in the ICC Men’s Test Batting Rankings, according to the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Azam, widely regarded as one of the best batters in international cricket today, is currently ranked at number 1 and number 4 on ICC’s ODI and T20I batters rankings. According to the latest update to the ICC rankings released on Wednesday, Azam reclaimed the number three spot he had lost with 879 points.

He scored an impressive 136 runs against England in Rawalpindi during the first Test match between Pakistan and England. However, Azam was unable to hold off the English bowling onslaught in the second innings, succumbing to 4 runs from 5 balls off a Ben Stokes delivery.

Pakistan ended up losing the match by 74 runs, earning flak from cricket analysts and pundits for their defensive approach. Stokes and the English side, on the other hand, won praise for playing attacking cricket and forcing a result out of a Test match that was headed for a certain draw.

Azam will have a chance to further move up the rankings as Pakistan take on England again in the second Test match of the series. The match will be played in Multan from December 9-13.

Meanwhile, Australia’s Marnus Lasbuschagne removed Joe Root to claim the top spot in the ICC’s Test Batter rankings.

Labuschagne registered scores of 204 and 104* against the West Indies during the first Test in Perth and that helped him take the top ranking and rise to a total of 935 rating points.

Currently, Australia’s Steven Smith is placed at number 2 with 893 points, followed by Azam with 879 points.