Afghan refugee school in Pakistan shuts down as funding falters post-Taliban takeover of Kabul

Special Afghan refugee school in Pakistan shuts down as funding falters post-Taliban takeover of Kabul
Habib-ur-Rehman (right), principal of Ghazi Amanullah Khan High School, talks to a staff member is Karachi, Pakistan, on August 16, 2023. (AN photo)
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Updated 17 August 2023
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Afghan refugee school in Pakistan shuts down as funding falters post-Taliban takeover of Kabul

Afghan refugee school in Pakistan shuts down as funding falters post-Taliban takeover of Kabul
  • Ghazi Amanullah Khan High School was closed after a German NGO refused continued funding after the fall of Kabul
  • More than 65,000 Afghans are officially registered as refugees with in Karachi, most of them living in two neighborhoods

KARACHI: In the heart of Afghan Basti, a refugee enclave located on the fringes of Karachi’s northern bypass, stands the dilapidated building of a school that became dormant soon after the shadow of Taliban rule fell over the neighboring state two years ago.

The closure of the educational facility has affected the lives of hundreds of young students, including an 11-year-old boy, Gul Ahmed, who is employed in a nearby workshop repairing bicycles for elderly members of his community.

Ahmed cannot help but yearn for a more carefree childhood with his friends and textbooks, each day passing the shuttered school on his way.

“If this school were still open, I would have had the chance to continue my education,” he said during a conversation with Arab News.




The picture taken on August 17, 2023, shows a deserted Ghazi Amanullah Khan High School in Karachi, Pakistan, on August 17, 2023. (AN photo)

Named after Afghanistan’s reformist king, Ghazi Amanullah Khan High School opened its doors in 2006 on an unpaved, litter-strewn street in the city. Funded by a German NGO, it operated under the supervision of the education ministry in the war-battered country, with the sole objective of serving Afghan refugees residing in this downtrodden neighborhood.

According to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, there are over 65,000 officially registered Afghans in Karachi. A significant portion of this population resides in Afghan Basti, while others are concentrated in a different part of the city known as the Al-Asif neighborhood.

Following the fall of Kabul in August 2021, Afghanistan faced severe financial challenges since Western government and donor agencies refused to fund the new Taliban administration or any other projects carried out by the Afghan government.

“This school remained operational for approximately twenty years,” Habib-ur-Rehman, the school’s principal, told Arab News. “It was run by a German NGO. However, with a change of government in Afghanistan, they withdrew their support.”

“We attempted to sustain it on a self-help basis,” he continued. “We managed to operate for five months but couldn’t continue without sufficient resources.”




The picture taken on August 17, 2023, shows the exterior view of Ghazi Amanullah Khan High School in Karachi, Pakistan, on August 17, 2023. (AN photo)

He noted that a team of 12 male and four female teachers were employed at the education facility when its management decided to close its doors. These faculty members were responsible for educating 430 students, including 180 young girls.

The school also offered co-education at senior levels.

As the principal guided Arab News through the building’s corridors, a haunting sense of abandonment filled the air, painting a stark picture of the silence that replaced the once-enthusiastic hustle and bustle of students.

“When I came here and saw the conditions, the situation truly pained my heart,” said Naqeeb Ullah Khan, an alumnus who completed his intermediate studies at the school.

He expressed confidence that Afghan children would return if the school’s doors were opened once again.

Haseena Qazi Khan, a former teacher of the school, now lectures at Syed Jamal Al-Din Al-Afghani School, another educational facility for refugees in the Al-Asif neighborhood.

“The children are deprived,” she remarked, referring to the students who can no longer attend their school. “They often resort to labor work in cabins and shops. When I witness all of this, I feel a deep sense of regret.”




The picture taken on August 17, 2023, shows Haseena Qazi Khan, a former teacher of Ghazi Amanullah Khan, teaching students in Karachi, Pakistan, on August 17, 2023. (AN photo)

Khan added that she finds it particularly distressing to see girls dropping out due to circumstances beyond their control.

“As a woman, it doesn’t sit well with me,” she continued. “I want other girls to have the opportunity to study, just like I did.”

Syed Mustafa, principal of Jamal Al-Din Al-Afghani School, acknowledged the financial vulnerability of the education institute in the face of diminishing funds.

“We encounter numerous challenges since we lack support,” he said. “Financial problems persist. If assistance doesn’t arrive in the next few months, this school might also face closure.”

Sitting in his workshop, young Ahmed reflected on how the school could have offered great opportunities for him and his friends.

“The school was good,” he reminisced. “Studying there would have been wonderful. The classes were excellent, and the teaching was brilliant.”


Pakistan has world’s highest number of viral hepatitis C infections, WHO report says

Pakistan has world’s highest number of viral hepatitis C infections, WHO report says
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Pakistan has world’s highest number of viral hepatitis C infections, WHO report says

Pakistan has world’s highest number of viral hepatitis C infections, WHO report says
  • Pakistan among ten nations that collectively shoulder nearly two-thirds of the global burden of hepatitis B and C
  • Hepatitis is second leading infectious cause of death globally with 1.3 million deaths yearly, same as tuberculosis

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has the highest number of viral hepatitis C infections in the world, around 8.8 million, and accounts for 44 percent of all new hepatitis C infections attributed to unsafe medical injections, a new report from the World Health Organization released this month says.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 2024 Global Hepatitis Report, the number of lives lost due to viral hepatitis is increasing, with the disease being the second leading infectious cause of death globally with 1.3 million deaths per year, the same as tuberculosis, a top infectious killer.

New data from 187 countries show that the estimated number of deaths from viral hepatitis increased from 1.1 million in 2019 to 1.3 million in 2022. Of these, 83 percent were caused by hepatitis B, and 17 percent by hepatitis C. Every day, there are 3500 people dying globally due to hepatitis B and C infections.

“This report paints a troubling picture: despite progress globally in preventing hepatitis infections, deaths are rising because far too few people with hepatitis are being diagnosed and treated,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 

“WHO is committed to supporting countries to use all the tools at their disposal — at access prices — to save lives and turn this trend around.”

While Pakistan is the world leader according to the WHO report for hepatitis C infections, if the number of hepatitis B and hepatitis C cases are combined, Pakis­tan ranks fifth in the world, only trailing behind China, India, Indonesia and Nige­ria, with around 12.6 million cases reported in 2022.

Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Russian Federation and Viet Nam, collectively shoulder nearly two-thirds of the global burden of hepatitis B and C. 

Achieving universal access to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in these ten countries by 2025, alongside intensified efforts in the African Region, is essential to get the global response back on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, according to the WHO.


Condolences from Pakistan as at least 66 killed in Afghanistan rains, flash floods

Condolences from Pakistan as at least 66 killed in Afghanistan rains, flash floods
Updated 55 min 38 sec ago
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Condolences from Pakistan as at least 66 killed in Afghanistan rains, flash floods

Condolences from Pakistan as at least 66 killed in Afghanistan rains, flash floods
  • Number of reported casualties has doubled since Sunday, many were killed when their homes collapsed 
  • Storms adding to challenges facing Afghanistan, still recovering from decades of conflict and natural disasters

KABUL: Pakistan on Tuesday offered condolences to neighboring Afghanistan as heavy rains and flash floods killed at least 66 people, damaged homes, infrastructure, and farmlands across provinces.

The storms, which started over the weekend, are adding to the challenges facing Afghanistan, which is still recovering from decades of conflict and natural disasters, including unprecedented droughts in the past four years, as well as a series of deadly earthquakes.

“The Government and people of Pakistan express deepest sympathies and condolences at the loss of precious lives and livelihoods and damage to properties caused by heavy rains and flash flooding in several provinces of Afghanistan,” the Pakistan foreign office said in a statement.

“We pray that the Almighty may grant patience and fortitude to the bereaved families to bear the irreparable loss and wish a swift recovery to the injured.”

Janan Sayeq, the spokesperson for the National Disaster Management Authority, told Arab News at least 66 people had been killed and 36 injured as per preliminary reports.

The number of reported casualties had doubled since Sunday, raising fears the actual toll could be higher. Many of the victims were killed when their homes collapsed on them.

Sayeq said 1,235 houses were destroyed.

Flash floods were reported in 23 of the country’s 34 provinces, damaging crops ahead of the harvest season, and badly hitting food security in the country as UN agencies estimate more than half of its population is in need of humanitarian assistance.

“The wheat crops will be ready for collection in a few weeks. But the rainfalls could destroy most of it,” said Gul Hussain, a farmer from the eastern Laghman province, which is one of the main agricultural regions.

The impact of drought, and now also floods, has been devastating for rural families struggling with access to water.

“The floods have had severe effects on the lives of people in the southeast, southwest and east of the country and have caused loss of life and damage to houses, as well as economic and agricultural effects as crops are destroyed and livestock are killed,” Najibullah Sadid, a hydromophologist, told Arab News.

The country’s mountainous topography and reduced vegetation are leaving little to no space for people to escape flood events, as preparedness and prevention in the face of the changing climate are almost nonexistent.

Water management infrastructure — such as check dams, trenches, terraces, and reservoirs that could help reduce flooding — is insufficient.

“For instance, Iran has 22 times more storage capacity and Pakistan 13 times more storage capacity than Afghanistan, making the country more vulnerable to floods during rainfalls,” Sadid said.

“Considering the increasing climate change effects as well as frequency and intensity of rainfalls, steps taken during the past two decades and now are limited and are not sufficient to control the situation.”


Saudi deputy defense minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 

Saudi deputy defense minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi deputy defense minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 

Saudi deputy defense minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 
  • Al-Otaibi’s visit comes after Saudi foreign minister was in Islamabad on two-day visit to discuss investments 
  • Pakistan maintains close military ties and provides extensive arms and training to Saudi armed forces 

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Assistant Defense Minister Talal Bin Abdullah Bin Turki Al-Otaibi is in Pakistan on a two-day visit to finalize defense-related bilateral projects, the Pakistani defense ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Al-Otaibi’s visit comes on the heels of a two-day visit to Islamabad by Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation and pushing forward previously agreed investment deals.

“Saudi Assistant Defense Minister arrived in Pakistan on a two-day visit,” a Pakistani defense ministry statement said, adding that bilateral projects in defense-related fields would be finalized during the visit. 

Photos and videos released by the defense ministry showed Al-Otaibi arriving in Pakistan on Tuesday night and being received by Pakistani military and government officials and Saudi diplomats, including the ambassador to Islamabad. 

Pakistan maintains close military ties with Saudi Arabia, providing extensive support, arms, and training to the Saudi armed forces. 

Since the 1970s, Pakistani soldiers have been stationed in Saudi Arabia to protect the Kingdom and Pakistan has also been providing training to Saudi soldiers and pilots. The two nations also regularly carry out multidimensional joint ventures and defense exercises. 


Washington urges Pakistan to prioritize economic reforms amid push for new IMF bailout

Washington urges Pakistan to prioritize economic reforms amid push for new IMF bailout
Updated 17 April 2024
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Washington urges Pakistan to prioritize economic reforms amid push for new IMF bailout

Washington urges Pakistan to prioritize economic reforms amid push for new IMF bailout
  • Pakistan is seeking at least a three-year multi-billion dollar loan package from IMF
  • US urges Pakistan and India to avoid escalation, find resolution through dialogue 

ISLAMABAD: The United States on Tuesday urged Pakistan to expand and prioritize economic reforms as Islamabad goes into negotiations for a new multi-year loan program from the International Monetary Fund. 

An ongoing nine-month, $3 billion IMF bailout designed to tackle a balance-of-payments crisis which brought Pakistan to the brink of default last summer will expire this month. Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb, who is on a visit to Washington for spring meetings organized by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, has said Pakistan will be seeking an at least three-year new program worth “billions” of dollars.

“Pakistan has made progress to stabilize its economy, and we support its efforts to manage its daunting debt burden,” State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said when asked about Pakistan going into negotiations with the IMF for a new loan deal.

“We encourage the government to prioritize and expand economic reforms to address its economic challenges. Our support for the country’s economic success is unwavering, and we will continue to engage with Pakistan through technical agreements, as well as through our trade and investment ties, all of which are priorities of our bilateral relationship.”

Speaking about remarks made by Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh that India would enter Pakistan to kill anyone who escapes over its border after trying to carry out militant attacks, Miller said:

“The United States is not going to get in the middle of this, but we do encourage both India and Pakistan to avoid escalation and find a resolution through dialogue.”

Singh’s comments earlier this month came after the Guardian newspaper published a report stating the Indian government had killed about 20 people in Pakistan since 2020 as part of a broader plan to target “terrorists residing on foreign soil.”

Relations between India and Pakistan have worsened since a 2019 suicide bombing of an Indian military convoy in Kashmir that New Delhi said was traced to Pakistan-based militants and which prompted it to carry out an airstrike on what it said was a militant base in Pakistan. Islamabad denies state complicity in the suicide bombing or that India hit militant targets in Pakistan. 

Pakistan said earlier this year it had credible evidence linking Indian agents to the killing of two of its citizens on its soil. This week Pakistan said investigations had suggested India was behind the death of a Pakistani man suspected of killing alleged Indian spy Sarabjit Singh in 2013.

Canada and the United States last year accused India of killing or attempting to kill people in those countries.

Canada said in September that it was pursuing “credible allegations” linking India to the death of a Sikh separatist leader shot dead in June — claims that India said were “absurd and motivated.” 

The US similarly said in November that it had thwarted an Indian plot to kill a Sikh separatist leader and announced charges against a person it said had worked with India to orchestrate the attempted murder. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said India will investigate any information it receives on the matter.


Pakistan launches second phase of Hajj training nationwide

Pakistan launches second phase of Hajj training nationwide
Updated 17 April 2024
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Pakistan launches second phase of Hajj training nationwide

Pakistan launches second phase of Hajj training nationwide
  • Pakistan began Hajj 2024 training workshops and educational sessions in February
  • Training designed to educate pilgrims about rituals and procedures of performing Hajj

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony has launched the second phase of Hajj trainings across Pakistan, state-run Radio Pakistan reported on Wednesday, as the South Asian nation prepares for the annual pilgrimage which will fall in June this year.

Last year, Saudi Arabia restored Pakistan’s pre-coronavirus Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims and lifted the upper age limit of 65 years for performing the pilgrimage. More than 81,000 Pakistani pilgrims performed Hajj under the government scheme in 2023 while the rest used private tour operators.

In Dec. 2023, Pakistan announced the results of a draw for Hajj 2024, with more than 63,000 applicants selected for this year’s pilgrimage under the government scheme. The remaining will use private tour operators.

“The purpose of the training is to educate pilgrims about religious rituals, administrative matters and regulations of the host country,” Radio Pakistan reported about the second phase of training. 

“For this purpose, the Ministry along with 40 resource persons, religious scholars and master trainers have organized training sessions at 122 different locations across the country at the district level.”

At the end of the training sessions, the mandatory vaccination process will be started at all Hajj camps, with pilgrims getting three vaccines free of cost ten days before departure to Saudi Arabia. 

“They will also be provided with a free bag, scarf, Ihram belt, shoe bag and mobile SIM from the respective bank counter,” Radio Pakistan reported. 

Pakistan began Hajj 2024 training workshops and educational sessions in February, designed by the government to educate pilgrims about the rituals and procedures of performing the annual pilgrimage.