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Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network promotes cultural partnership and economic prosperity

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ISLAMABAD: Over 200 Pakistani alumni of American government exchange programs participated in the 2018 Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) international conference opening ceremony the other day. The conference, which ran through July 15, focused on Pakistani-American partnerships in cultural industries, entrepreneurship, and international education, while promoting shared values of tolerance and social inclusion.

Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce speaks to Pakistani alumni at the PUAN conference in Islamabad.

Visiting from Washington, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce participated in the event, together with American Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Hoover. They were joined by hundreds of alumni, including Nazir Sabir (the first Pakistani to summit Mount Everest), attorney Ramesh Jaipal, and performing artist Sheema Kermani. All spoke about the transformative power of exchange programs and people-to-people ties in advancing shared American-Pakistani goals.

Assistant Secretary Royce highlighted the conference’s goal to support Pakistan’s domestic growth and international trade.  “Many of you know that the United States is Pakistan’s largest market, with bilateral trade topping 663 billion rupees this year,” Royce noted.  “Whether it is supporting tourism and cultural industries, or advancing entrepreneurship and technical education, American-Pakistani connections in all fields will only benefit both our countries.”

“There is no group quite like the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network,” Chargé Hoover said.  “The 25,000 members of this community possess staggering power. You have the resources, knowledge, and ambition to shape Pakistan and the future of the region.”  He also participated in the opening of an art exhibition featuring work by emerging Pakistani artists and prominent alumni of U.S.-funded exchange programs.  The exhibition was organized by PUAN, in cooperation with Nukta Studios and the Satrang Gallery at the Serena Hotel, Islamabad.

The United States has a long tradition of educational, professional, and cultural exchanges with the people of Pakistan. The Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network, or PUAN, is the largest of its kind in the world, with over 25,000 members of American government-sponsored exchange and English language programs.  Alumni include Pakistani business and community leaders, entrepreneurs, change makers, journalists, and many more.

Assistant Secretary Royce visited Islamabad to highlight the wide range of State Department education and exchange opportunities the US Embassy offers to Pakistanis.

She met Dr. Tariq Banuri, the chairman of the Pakistan Higher Education Commission which is working to foster a “culture of quality” in Pakistan’s higher education sector through scholarly interaction among US and Pakistani faculty and administrators.  They also discussed the continuing educational partnership between the American and Pakistani governments, including the Fulbright Program. Fulbright is the American government’s flagship academic exchange program and, thanks to contributions by both the American and Pakistani governments, Pakistan’s program is contributing to greater capacity for cooperation and closer ties across all sectors of society.

The United States Educational Foundation administers the Fulbright Program in Pakistan and Royce met with the organization’s executive director, Rita Akhtar.

She gave opening remarks to 210 accomplished alumni of U.S. exchange programs, including eight alumni from Afghanistan, at the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network international conference. The U.S. Embassy’s Regional English Language Office sponsors numerous English-language initiatives for students and teachers, and Royce met participants at one of those programs:  a two-week workshop on teaching English for 40 female madrassa teachers from across Pakistan.

Royce also visited the Pakistan National Council for the Arts, where she met Executive Director Jamal Shah and earned about the work of some of Pakistan’s best-known artists. —PR

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