Pakistan Seeks a Knowledge Corridor with the United States
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Pakistan's Federal Minister for Planning and Development, Prof. Ahsan Iqbal, says that like the famed China-Pakistan economic corridor, Pakistan desires a knowledge corridor with the United States. The Minister, on a visit to California, was addressing a gathering of Pakistani Americans at the Mehran Restaurant in Newark on Sunday, February 21.
The two countries agreed on establishing a Pak-US Knowledge Corridor during prime minister Nawaz Sharif's visit to the United States last year to enhance bilateral ties in the fields of education, science and technology.
Prof Ahsan Iqbal said that this corridor envisions partnership between Pakistan and US universities to produce 10,000 Phds in the next ten years for the country. Pakistan needs 10,000 Phds by 2025 to fulfil the present government’s initiative to set up sub-campus of universities at district levels and to fulfill the needs of faculty at these campuses.
The Minister said that the Knowledge Corridor would help to enhance the ratio of Pakistani students in US universities, which is presently very low compared to the other countries in South Asia. The large number of students trained through this corridor in US universities would serve as agents of change when they returned to Pakistan, he added.
Prof Ahsan Iqbal added that the knowledge corridor would help to enhance the ratio of Pakistani students in US universities, which is presently low compared to India and Bangladesh.
He was of the view that past governments in Pakistan used to buy tanks and aircraft from the United States, but no government went for the “academic weapon” of the US – universities – which was indisputably its real weapon.
The federal minister further said the government had increased the Higher Education Commission’s budget from Rs 48 billion to Rs 78 billion and it wanted to raise the amount further to Rs 100 billion. He said the government would establish universities or sub-campuses in all districts to provide higher education opportunities at the doorstep of the poor.
He said the government was making efforts to achieve the goals of Vision 2025 and Pakistan would be included among top 25 economies of the world by 2025.
Prof Ahsan Iqbal also spoke about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which is a collection of projects currently under construction at a cost of $46 billion which are intended to upgrade and expand Pakistani infrastructure. The Minister said that the Corridor would change the face of Balochistan which would be linked with all provinces. He said the solution to the current Balochistan problem is economic development.
In his view, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Pak-US Knowledge Corridor will prove game changers for Pakistan.
Prof. Ahsan Iqbal said you may be watching Pakistani TV channels but the picture depicted by these channels is very pessimistic. It is not a true picture. "Pakistan is not what you see on TV channels."
He enumerated the achievements of the Nawaz Sharif government and said in 2013, there was 20 hours load-shedding, terrorist incidents were taking place every week, international media had declared Pakistan the most dangerous country of the world while Karachi was burning. But now after three years the Pakistan Army was advancing and terrorists had fled their safe havens. The international media was declaring Pakistan as the next emerging destination of investors. Likewise, Karachi’s situation had improved manifold.
About the energy sector, Prof Ahsan Iqbal said that the government is giving top priority to this sector: not only is the power generation capacity being increased but the transmission lines are being modernized since they cannot sustain increased load. He said the Diamer Bhasha Dam, in Gilgit-Baltistan is being built for hydropower generation. It will also serve as a water reservoir. Pakistan’s next challenge is to overcome the water crisis and building a dam is the top priority of the government.
Dr Mubashir Rana, President of the 3500-member Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America (APPNA), complained that there is lot of talk about the government's encouragement of projects of overseas Pakistanis but little happens in practical terms. He referred to the Tele-Medicine project offered by APPNA: 1,500 physicians had offered their services to provide medical advice via phone. However, there was no response from the government of Pakistan which was very frustrating, Dr. Mubashir Rana informed. The Minister responded by saying that ‘you may not be approaching the right people, you should have contacted me.’
Pakistan Consul General in Los Angeles, Abdul Jabbar Memon, thanked all the guests who attended the community gathering at a short notice.