ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Minister for Planning, Reforms and Development Ahsan Iqbal on Saturday said the Pakistan government and the United States are discussing ways and means to getting 10,000 Pakistani Ph.D students trained in American universities.
Speaking at a discussion as the chief guest organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC, the Minister presented a review of the Pakistan-US relations and discussed challenges and opportunities facing Pakistan, said a statement issued by Ministry of Planning, Reforms and Development here on Saturday.
He also presented a broader vision of the Pakistan’s future economic growth and the steps being taken by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif since taking over in 2013 to put the country on the path of stability and prosperity.
The Minister informed the select gathering that the Pakistan government has drawn a roadmap to train 10,000 Ph. Ds scholars in different areas including science, technology, engineering, math as well as in the social sciences for the country’s development and growth.
He said the government is allocating from its own resources and funds for developing the Ph.D program,
“We are working and discussing with US universities and the administration ways and means of partnership through which we can leverage our own resources and maximize the value to have our goal of 10,000 Ph.Ds get trained in US universities in the next 10 years,” the Minister said.
If that happened, the minister expressed the confidence that the following decade will be a decade of very fast economic growth for Pakistan. “This is the journey which has brought me here to the United States.”
Ahsan Iqbal said that during the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, being held in Washington on Feb. 29, “we hope we can operationalize this very important future-making initiative between Pakistan and the United States.
In his remarks, the Minister recalled the long history of partnership with US which began with the Independence of Pakistan in 1947.
However, he regretted that because of the geo-strategic scenario of the past, the two countries structured their relationship through the prism of geo-strategic and security.
“There was so much more in Pakistan, so much more in this partnership which could have translated this relationship into a broad-based relationship,” he added.
He said when the present government came into power in 2013, it inherited a legacy of a relationship which was again shaped by security imperatives of the past.
The minister said by 2013, Pakistan was unfortunately painted very negatively in the media and there was a lot of pessimism.
However, this government had an agenda to change the narrative through focusing on the strength of the Pakistani society.
As a result of these efforts, the Minister said that in two-hand-a-half years, Pakistan is coming with a new image. The government has cut down energy shortages and the country is on its way to overcome the energy crisis by 2018.
On the terrorism front, he said as a result of a very successful military operation, Pakistan has been made a secure and safe place and the government was able to put the country on a path where extremist elements are almost running for havens outside Pakistan.
“There is not an inch of territory in Pakistan, where they can hide,” the Minister said added that the state is on offensive and these extremists were on the run. This, he added, has made Pakistan a very safe place.
On the economic front, the Minister said Pakistan’s reserves were now at a record $21 billion from $6 billion. The country for seven years was trapped in between 2.5-3 percent GDP growth.
For the first time in eight years, Pakistan achieved the economic growth of 4 percent in 2014, followed by 4.5 percent growth last year. The government expects 5 percent growth this financial year, he added.
The minister said energy shortages were the main hurdle in the GDP growth, causing the country 2 percent GDP. He said by 2018, Pakistan should be doing 6 percent growth.
He said the government has charted out a new course for Pakistan and through consultation within the country and with the stakeholders the vision 2025 has been prepared. He expressed the hope that by 2025, Pakistan should be among the top 25 economies of the world. “This is ambitious but not impossible,” he added.