A People-to-People Relationship with Pakistan
By Ryan C Crocker

Over the past five years the United States and Pakistan have built an extraordinarily close relationship as allies and strategic partners at the government-to-government level. But relations between peoples are the cement that holds together the elements of a strategic partnership. During my tenure as US ambassador to Pakistan I have been very interested in promoting these human and cultural bonds between our two countries. Nothing better demonstrates the breadth and the depth of the long-term, strategic partnership between Pakistan and the United States than the rapid growth in education programs between our two countries.
Our USAID program has provided over $200 million to education programs in Pakistan over the last five years, encouraging student learning in some of Pakistan's most remote regions by training teachers in participatory learning, increasing parental involvement and supporting infrastructure improvements for primary schools. Regionally, these programs have focused on Sindh, Balochistan, the FATA and the Islamabad Capital Territory. Since October 2006, these programs have been extended to the earthquake-affected areas of the NWFP and AJK.
These are the best-known examples of the importance of education in the US-Pakistan partnership. But there are many more examples. We have developed a program with Pakistani schools and NGO partners, called "ACCESS," that encourages non-elite Pakistani youth to study English. ACCESS provides micro-scholarships to these students to attend English Literacy Centers at quality schools in Pakistan. To date, nearly 1,000 high school students in Lahore, Multan, Karachi, Peshawar, Islamabad and Gwadar have studied under the ACCESS program. And we are now looking to extend this program to provide opportunities for ACCESS graduates to attend universities in Pakistan.
The "YES" -- Youth Exchange and Study -- program, funded in part by the US State Department and managed in Pakistan by the Karachi-based International Education and Resource Network, takes Pakistani students on year-long foreign exchange programs in the United States during their high school years. As many as 158 Pakistani high school students have participated in the YES program since it began in 2003.
Another State Department program has partnered with Pakistan's National Education Foundation and Eastern Washington University to provide in-service teacher training for 400 female teachers in the FATA. The FATA Female Teacher Training program also provides micro-loans to parents of young girls to encourage families to keep their daughters in school. This program is benefiting some 300 schools in the FATA and NWFP.
Academic linkages between Pakistani and American institutions have been important since the beginning of the US-Pakistan relationship. The Institute for Business Administration in Karachi, one of Pakistan's leading institutions of higher education, was founded in 1955 with technical assistance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Today, the US Department of Agriculture provides major funding support for agricultural and forestry programs at the University of Faisalabad, the University of Peshawar and the Pakistan Forest Institute.
Nothing better demonstrates the deepening relationship between Pakistan and the United States than the recent, rapid growth in academic exchanges. When I arrived in Pakistan in 2004, about a dozen Pakistani students were studying in the US on Fulbright scholarships. Today there are over 200, with 150 new Pakistani participants in the Fulbright program each year.
The Pakistan Fulbright program is now the largest Fulbright program in the world. It has active Pakistani participation on its board of directors and its executive staff. Pakistani funding also makes an important contribution to the Fulbright program in Pakistan. In the coming academic year we expect to re-initiate the reciprocal part of the Fulbright program by bringing American senior scholars to Pakistan.
In the last six months we have seen many more American scholars travel to Pakistan. The US embassy has encouraged this growing interchange between American and Pakistani scholars and researchers. All of us involved were particularly pleased that the American Institute of Pakistan Studies held its annual scholarly convention this year in Islamabad.
The need to encourage people-to-people relationships led us to undertake another important initiative. The embassy's consular staff has worked very hard to streamline the visa process to encourage Pakistanis to travel to the United States. We've made remarkable progress. Visa issuance was 30 per cent greater in 2006 than in 2005, including an increase of 55 per cent for issuance of student visas. The numbers of Pakistani visitors to the United States are now returning to pre-9/11 levels.
These are strong examples of deeper and stronger ties between the American and Pakistani people. As I take my leave from Pakistan, I take those strengthening ties as one of my fondest and most important memories of my tenure as US ambassador to Pakistan.
(The writer has served as US ambassador to Pakistan since 2004. His present assignment is as American ambassador to Iraq. Courtesy The News)


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 pakistanlink.com . All Rights Reserved.