ISLAMABAD: (APP) Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz Wednesday said Pakistan had a strong desire to strengthen its relations with its neighboring countries and it attached special emphasis on Pak-Afghan ties .
"Mutually beneficial relationship between countries is critical to promote peace and stability in South Asia and the broader region," he said during a ceremony of Higher Education Commission's project, award of 3000 scholarships to Afghan students under PM's directive.
The advisor said despite various challenges, the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan continued to grow through people to people contacts and trade for decades.
A partnership cultivated on the basis of socio-economic development was the way forward, he noted.
The government of Pakistan was also fully committed to take necessary steps to ensure that Afghanistan came out of the challenges, so that it could emerge on the international stage as progressive and peaceful nation.
"That is why we are looking forward to an all-encompassing relationship, from people-to-people contacts to government-to-government relations," a foreign office press release quoted the advisor as saying.
He said Pak-Afghan ties in the field of education dated back to late 1970s when Pakistan whole heartedly welcomed millions of Afghan refugees on its soil.
In the past four decades, hundreds of thousands of these refugee students had been receiving their education in Pakistani schools and universities, at par with the Pakistani students, he added.
Sartaj said in addition, the commonalities of culture and ethnicity made Pakistan an attractive destination of higher education for Afghan students .
This was evident from the fact that Pakistan hosted the largest number of Afghan students studying abroad. More than 48,000 Afghan graduates from Pakistani educational institutions were serving in various Afghan institutions in the public and private sectors.
"We are proud of this contribution to Afghanistan's progress. These Afghans are an asset for Pakistan and our ambassadors in their home country," he declared.
The advisor said the collaboration between the two countries on various strategic fronts would continue to grow, as from past decades on a countless occasions, two countries had shown interest and made tangible efforts to upscale the ties in a meaningful manner.
He said Pakistan took the initiative of offering scholarships to Afghan students and in 2010 launched the prime minister's scholarship scheme in the field of higher education.
To date, 2,912 scholarships had availed from a total of 3000. These scholarships were granted in the fields of medicine, engineering, computer science, banking and finance.
Sartaj further informed that in view of the successful completion of this phase, the prime minister of Pakistan has approved another 3000 scholarships under the new bilateral assistance package of $500 million for Afghanistan announced at Brussels Conference in October 2016.