Pakistan calls for mutual recognition of educational degrees among OIC states

Participants speak during a panel discussion session at the Vice Chancellors Forum 2023 in Islamabad on March 19, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Twitter/VCForum2023)
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Updated 19 March 2023

Pakistan calls for mutual recognition of educational degrees among OIC states

  • Over 200 vice chancellors, including 40 from 20 OIC member states, attend two-day conference in Islamabad
  • Participants emphasize on need for academia to develop critical thinkers to keep pace with technological advancements

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s education minister Rana Tanveer Hussain on Sunday stressed the need to develop a framework for mutual recognition of degrees among the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries to facilitate “greater movement of skilled manpower” among the Islamic world.

Hussain said this during a two-day Vice Chancellors’ (VC) Forum of Islamic countries in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. Over 200 vice chancellors, including 40 from the 20 OIC countries’ universities that are participating in the forum, attended the event.

The goal of the fifth edition of the forum is to share experiences, pool resources, foster collaborations, strengthen networks, and encourage dialogue on the future of higher education in the Islamic World.

The VC Forum is being jointly organized by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) Pakistan — the statutory education body in Pakistan — the Islamic World Educational, and Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO), Pakistani Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, COMSATS University Islamabad (CUI), and the British Council Pakistan.

“There is a need to develop a framework for mutual recognition of degrees among OIC member countries, which would facilitate greater movement of skilled manpower among them and increase collaborative research,” Hussain said at the event.

He stressed on the need to develop the youth’s skills, adding that universities needed to respond more effectively to the rapidly developing realities of professional development.

“All Muslim countries need to pool their resources and expertise to benefit the entire Muslim world,” the minister added.

Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Education, Rana Tanveer Hussain, addresses participants of the VC's Forum of Islamic countries in Islamabad, Pakistan on March 19, 2023. (AN Photo)

In his video message to the audience, Pakistan’s President Dr. Arif Alvi urged the forum to chalk out a strategy to promote the practice of adopting modern education and technology among the Muslim youth.

“The Muslims were slow to adapt to technological advancements and this needed to change,” he said, adding that in the last 10 years, sectors focusing on natural resources were overtaken by technological companies such as Amazon and Google.

These companies, he said, represented intellectual capital and pointed toward the need for greater access to online education.

Dr. Salim M. Al-Malik, director general of ICESCO, said development of robotics would make 97 million jobs obsolete and in the next 10 years, 375 million people would have to switch jobs, causing immense disruption worldwide and hence increase the digital divide.

“There is a great need to recreate the glorious Islamic heritage in science and ICSESCO would create 100 science researchers in top universities of the member countries by 2025,” he added.

Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, the HEC’s chair, said this forum posed an immense challenge for academia to rethink its role beyond conferring degrees on developing critical thinkers who could adapt and respond to fast-changing global trends with agility and creating lifelong learners with relevant skill sets.

“This forum will help higher education institutions in the Islamic world keep pace with rapid developments in science and technology,” he said. Ahmed hoped that at the end of the two-day activities of the Forum, participants would come up with tangible initiatives for enhanced collaboration and would help bring excellence in higher education systems.

Vice chancellors from OIC member states pose for a group photo during the VC's Forum of Islamic countries in Islamabad, Pakistan on March 19, 2023. (AN Photo)

Speaking to Arab News, Professor Dr. Alyaa Ali Al-Attar, president of the Northern Technical University in Iraq, expressed her delight in attending the conference. She said it had provided a valuable opportunity to engage with leading academics from the Islamic world.

“The conference has provided us an opportunity to interact with top academicians from the Islamic world and exchange ideas for the advancement of higher education in the Muslim world,” she told Arab News.

She said the conference provided a platform for exploring various avenues of future collaboration among the participating higher education institutions.

“We are looking forward to discussing different ways and means of future collaborations between different higher education institutions whose heads are participating in this conference,” she added.

Maria Rehman, the country director of the British Council Pakistan, said there was an immense need to bridge the gap between universities and the industry to improve the quality of skilled education.

“There is a need of reforming the educational system, building partnerships for increasing access to quality learning, which is quite a challenge,” she added.

The officials of Pakistani Higher Education Commission and World Business Angels Investment Forum sign MOU for cooperation in higher education sectors in Islamabad, Pakistan on March 19, 2023. (AN Photo)


UK police release new images in fresh appeal for clues about British-Pakistani girl’s death

Updated 13 sec ago

UK police release new images in fresh appeal for clues about British-Pakistani girl’s death

  • Surrey Police hope the release of images will prompt people to share information about Sara Sharif and her family
  • UK authorities were alerted about her death by a call from Pakistan in which a man identified himself as her father

LONDON: British police on Friday released new pictures and renewed their appeal for information into the death of a 10-year-old girl, whose father will face trial for her murder.
Sara Sharif’s body was discovered at her family’s home in southern England on August 10.
A post-mortem examination revealed Sharif had sustained “multiple and extensive injuries” over a long period.
Her father, stepmother and uncle have been charged with murder and causing or allowing the death of a child.
They are expected to stand trial next autumn.
Surrey Police said they were releasing the new images “as part of our ongoing appeal for information to help us build a picture of her life prior to the discovery of her body.”
Police added that the photos “present Sara in the way we believe she may have dressed in the months prior to her death.”
“We are hoping that these images will prompt more people to come forward with information about her and her family.”
One of the pictures shows Sharif wearing a black hijab in what looks like a school photo and in the other she is wearing a blue hijab.
Sara’s father Urfan Sharif, 41, his partner Beinash Batool, 29, and his brother Faisal Malik, 28, traveled to Pakistan the day before her body was found.
An early morning emergency call alerting officers to Sara’s death was made from Pakistan by a man identifying himself as the father, according to detectives.
Following a month in the South Asian country, they returned to the UK on September 13 and were arrested on arrival at London’s Gatwick Airport.
They have been remanded in custody and are due to appear in court on December 1 for a plea hearing.
Their trial is due to begin on September 2, 2024 and is expected to last six weeks.

IMF chief wants Pakistan to increase tax revenue from rich, protect vulnerable

Updated 21 min 54 sec ago

IMF chief wants Pakistan to increase tax revenue from rich, protect vulnerable

  • The poor segments have been suffering due to high inflation which the government has attributed to IMF reforms
  • Kristalina Georgieva says economic reforms are not easy to implement but they are in the interest of Pakistani people

ISLAMABAD: International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Friday her organization had been consistently communicating the need for Pakistani authorities to generate more tax revenue from wealthier social segments while protecting the underprivileged classes in the country.

The top IMF official made the comment during a brief interaction with a Pakistani reporter on the sidelines of the 78th United Nations General Assembly session in New York.

Her statement comes against the backdrop of spiraling inflation in Pakistan which has primarily affected the poor. The government has consistently attributed the increasing cost of living in the country to stringent economic reforms recommended by the international lender while approving a $3 billion bailout in June.

“Let me send a simple message to everybody in Pakistan,” she said while speaking to Geo News correspondent. “What we are asking in our program is please collect more taxes from the wealthy and please protect the poor people of Pakistan.”

“I do believe that this is in line with what people in Pakistan would like to see for the country,” she added.

The IMF chief acknowledged the conditions laid down by her organization to revitalize Pakistan’s economy and address the mistakes of the past were not easy to implement.

However, she maintained they were in the interest of the people of Pakistan.

Georgieva statement comes following her meeting with Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Tuesday in which she was briefed on measures taken by the country’s interim administration to stabilize the economy.

The IMF asked Pakistan to raise energy prices and following market-driven exchange rate which made the CPI hit a record 38 percent this year and the national currency plummet to all-time lows.

Kakar said he had a “constructive dialogue” with the IMF chief who, in turn, said there was an agreement to follow policies to ensure stability and foster sustainable and inclusive growth in Pakistan.

International report highlights polio eradication challenges in Pakistan, other countries

Updated 22 September 2023

International report highlights polio eradication challenges in Pakistan, other countries

  • There have only been seven cases of wild polio reported this year, five in Afghanistan and two in Pakistan
  • Experts say outbreaks linked to vaccine-derived polio are more challenging and have paralyzed more children

LONDON: The global effort to end polio is likely to miss two key targets this year on the path toward defeating the virus, according to an independent strategic review.

The aim in 2023 was to interrupt the transmission of wild polio in the two countries where it is still endemic, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and do the same for a variant form of polio known as “vaccine-derived” that is causing outbreaks elsewhere.

The Independent Monitoring Board, a group of polio experts who oversee the work of the UN-backed Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), said neither target would be hit this year.

The GPEI agreed on both counts, citing insecurity in key locations as one of the remaining challenges and stressing in a statement responding to the review that ending the vaccine-derived outbreaks is likely to take the most time.

Wiping out polio, a viral disease that can cause paralysis, has been a key global health aim for decades. Cases have been reduced by more than 99 percent since 1988 thanks to mass vaccination campaigns, but making polio the second infectious disease ever to be completely eradicated, after smallpox in 1980 – has proved more difficult.

“But it can be done. And we need to make sure we finish the job,” said Aidan O’Leary, director of polio eradication at the World Health Organization, a GPEI partner alongside governments and funders like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

There have only been seven cases of wild polio reported this year, five in Afghanistan and two in Pakistan.

O’Leary said interrupting transmission of this form of polio was likely to happen by early 2024, just a few months after the target.

This meant the hope of a conclusive end to polio by 2026 remained alive, at least for wild polio, he said in a phone interview with Reuters on Thursday.

However, outbreaks linked to vaccine-derived polio are more challenging, he said. This form of polio can occur when children are immunized with a vaccine containing a weakened version of the live virus. They are protected, but the weakened virus excreted by these immunized children can spread and mutate among an unvaccinated population, ultimately becoming harmful.

Such viruses have recently paralyzed nearly 50 times more children than wild poliovirus, the monitoring board review said.

The GPEI aims to focus its vaccination and surveillance efforts on the areas where these kinds of polioviruses are concentrated: the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, north western Nigeria, south-central Somalia, and northern Yemen, O’Leary said.

“This is what is needed to shift the game,” he said. “Clearly the timelines are under review ... but we can do what has to be done.”

Pakistan army chief meets Saudi counterpart to discuss defense ties, security cooperation

Updated 22 September 2023

Pakistan army chief meets Saudi counterpart to discuss defense ties, security cooperation

  • Pakistan, Saudi Arabia’s militaries have a history of extensive defense cooperation
  • Two nations often participate in joint military exercises, Pakistan army trains Saudi cadets

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army chief, General Asim Munir, on Friday held a meeting with the leader of Saudi Arabia’s armed forces, General Fayyadh Bin Hamed Al Ruwaili, and discussed strengthening bilateral cooperation in defense and security affairs, the army’s media wing said.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia share strong defense ties and security cooperation. An annual tradition involves cadets from the Kingdom, along with counterparts from other Middle Eastern nations, visiting Pakistan to undergo specialized army training. The two nations regularly engage in joint military exercises.

On September 9, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia launched a joint naval exercise near the Kingdom’s Al Jubail city and in August the two countries launched an inaugural joint special forces exercise to benefit from each other’s counterterrorism expertise.

“During the meeting, both sides deliberated upon various areas of mutual interest and bilateral cooperation, including defense and security matters,” the army’s media wing said of the meeting between the two generals.

A day ago, General Al-Ruwaili visited Pakistan’s Naval Headquarters in Islamabad and met a senior Pakistan Navy official.

“The visiting dignitary appreciated and acknowledged Pakistan Navy’s efforts and commitments in support of collaborative maritime security in the region,” a statement from the Navy said on Thursday.

Riyadh and Islamabad also enjoy close cooperation in trade, economy, culture, information, and investment. Pakistani expats living in Saudi Arabia are the largest source of remittances to the South Asian nation.

Pakistan open to welcoming Mohammad Amir to World Cup squad — chief selector

Updated 22 September 2023

Pakistan open to welcoming Mohammad Amir to World Cup squad — chief selector

  • Fast bowler retired from international cricket in 2020 citing discrimination, ‘mental torture’
  • Chief selector says if Amir to be considered for World Cup is willing to play domestic cricket

ISLAMABAD: Chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said on Friday Pakistan was ‘open’ to the possibility of welcoming former fast bowler Mohammad Amir back into the squad ahead of the World Cup if he consistently performed well in domestic competitions.
Amir announced his retirement from international cricket at the age of 28 in December 2020, claiming he could no longer play in an atmosphere where he did not feel welcome in the national team.
Amir, who was jailed in 2011 for his part in a spot-fixing scandal, served three months in prison and a five-year ban from all forms of cricket before returning to the Pakistan squad in January 2016.
The left-arm bowler excelled in limited-overs cricket after that, helping Pakistan to the Champions Trophy title in 2017, but was dropped from the squad to tour New Zealand in 2020.
Questioned about the chance of Amir returning to the squad for the upcoming cricket World Cup starting next month in India, the chief selector said “the doors are open for everyone, including Amir.”
“Aamir is a great cricketer and he had decided to retire,” the official said.
“If he wants to play for Pakistan, the doors are open for everyone. If he comes back and plays first-class cricket and performs well, he will definitely be considered … I have said this before, neither the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) nor the selection committee closes the door [of opportunity] for anyone.”

In an interview with a local news channel when he retired, Amir said he had been “mentally tortured by the team management, subjected to frequent taunts, and felt deliberately sidelined.” 
Asked if he was leaving the sport altogether he said: “No, I’m not going away from cricket. If you have seen the atmosphere here and the way I’ve been sidelined, I got a wake-up call when I was not selected in the 35-man squad,” Amir had told Samaa TV.
“I don’t think I can play cricket under this management. I think I should leave cricket this time. I am being tortured mentally. I don’t think I can tolerate any more torture now.
“I’ve experienced a lot of torture from 2010 to 2015. I was away from the game and sentenced for my mistake. I’m being tortured again and again...”
Amir, who has 259 wickets across all formats, had retired from test cricket in 2019 to focus on the white-ball game.
He was the pick of the Pakistan bowlers in the 2019 50-overs World Cup in England with 17 wickets as they missed out on a semifinal spot.