Pakistani university offers free education for transgender community

Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU)
Updated 24 November 2017
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Pakistani university offers free education for transgender community

ISLAMABAD: A leading university in Pakistan is offering free education for the transgender community, in a bid to promote inclusion and opportunity for the marginalized group.
“Our university education system is based on distance learning, so they can get the education without coming to classrooms, and avoid possible taboos attached to them,” Dr. Shahid Siddiqui, vice chancellor of the Islamabad-based Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU), told Arab News.
Through this free education program, the AIOU will try to “return their self-respect and dignity.”
The Forum for Dignity Initiatives (FDI), a Pakistani NGO working for the rights of gender and sexual minorities, lauded the decision.
“This is a positive, welcome and much-needed step by the AIOU,” Uzma Yaqoob, founder and executive director of FDI, told Arab News, adding that the transgender community was never given such an opportunity before in Pakistan.
“The transgender community has a great desire to acquire and complete their education. I’m sure they’ll make use of this offer.”
In June, for the first time, Pakistani authorities granted third-gender passports after legally recognizing transgender people in 2009.
The transgender community has been registered with a separate identity for the first time in the country’s 2017 population census.
According to preliminary census data released by the government, there are 10,418 people in Pakistan. But some advocacy groups say the actual figure is half a million or more.
Since being legally recognized in 2009, transgender people have the right to possess identity cards and to vote. But despite this, the community continues to face challenges and even attacks by extremists.


Afghanistan’s vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum to return home from exile

Updated 22 July 2018
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Afghanistan’s vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum to return home from exile

  • Dostum’s return follows nearly three weeks of mass protests in northern Afghanistan
  • The protests were a major headache for the government amid increased attacks by the Taliban and Daesh

KABUL: Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, who was exiled by President Ashraf Ghani’s government over allegations of sexual abuse, returned home on Sunday to rapturous reception from supporters and is set to resume his duties as normal.
Dostum’s return follows nearly three weeks of mass protests in northern Afghanistan by his ethnic Uzbek supporters, who blocked several border crossings and government institutions, and threatened to boycott the long-delayed October elections.
The protests were a major headache for the government amid increased attacks by the Taliban and Daesh in the north recently.
Dostum’s supporters accuse Ghani of having sidelined him. The protests were triggered by the arrest of Nizamuddin Qaisari, a senior commander and Dostum loyalist accused of severe human rights abuses and threatening to kill provincial officials.
In a video, government troops were seen beating Qaisari’s handcuffed guards during his arrest, stoking further anger.
Haroon Chakansuri, a spokesman for Ghani, said Dostum had gone to Turkey for nearly 14 months for unspecified medical treatment, and would return home on a chartered aircraft on Sunday and be given an official reception.
Accusations that Dostum had ordered his guards to sexually abuse and torture political rival Ahmad Eschi will be handled independently by the courts, Chakansuri said. Dostum supporters say the allegations about Eschi are a conspiracy.
Ghani picked Dostum, the self-proclaimed leader of ethnic Uzbeks, as his running mate in the 2014 elections.
Ghani last year blocked Dostum’s return from exile when he tried to fly home to form an opposition alliance including senior government members.
The ethnic Uzbek vote is essential for any candidate in the presidential elections slated for next year. Ghani has said he will stand for office again.