The announcement of the launch of the third phase of Allama Iqbal scholarships for Afghan students is a laudable step. The launch suggests that Pakistan’s commitment to supporting the education of Afghan students is not faltering anytime soon. This scholarship program has already benefitted over 6000 students from Afghanistan who undertook their studies in top-ranking higher education institutes in Pakistan during the first two phases of the program. On their passing out, Afghan students are highly encouraged by Pakistan to return to their home country and serve their people.
The tradition of Afghans pursuing their education in Pakistan because of a lack of formal education structure in their country spreads back over the years. The said scholarship program has only further strengthened that endeavour. The current phase will provide 4500 scholarships over three years. The most remarkable thing about this phase is that 1/3rd of the scholarships will be awarded to female students. In dire times where we see no future for women and girls’ education in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s sensitivity towards the matter is reflected in this reservation of 1/3rd scholarships for females.
Covering all three; undergrad, post-grad, and doctoral studies, Allama Iqbal scholarships have gradually increased in number from 800 in 2020 to 1150 in 2021, and now even more this year. The popularity of these fully funded scholarships among Afghan students becomes evident in the huge number of applications that are received when the program opens. The dedicated consistency of the government of Pakistan as well as the Higher Education Commission in educating Afghans is an emblem of good neighbourly relations.
While currently, the tough phase of deportation of illegal foreigners from the country has somewhat tensed the air, the Allama Iqbal scholarship program stands as a promise that long-term cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan will not be compromised. These awards are not only a chance for personal growth for students from Afghanistan but also an asset and value-addition to the human resources of the country, across a multitude of fields of study. Most of all, such initiatives are the hope of a bright shared future.