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UK college visa scam | Favouritism in student exchange programme

British principal of college blames UK mission for visa scam
London, April 28: British High Commission officials in Pakistan have been accused by the principal of a prestigious Peshawar college of dereliction of duty for failing to investigate bogus students entering the UK with false documents.

The explosive allegation came amid increasing diplomatic tensions between Pakistan and Britain over who is to blame for the high numbers of Pakistani nationals entering Britain on illegally obtained visas.

A report in The Observer (UK ignored warnings against bogus students) quoting Dr David Gosling, the UK-born head of Edwards College of Peshawar, said officials had ignored specific evidence that students were entering Britain on false papers. He believes they may be turning a blind eye to avoid uncovering corruption.

Dr Gosling, principal of the 2,000-strong college for three years, said that in December he sent details of students who had obtained bogus student visas, including their names, to the British High Commission in Islamabad but was still waiting for a response.

He told the Observer on Saturday: "The high commission is either turning a blind eye or just cannot cope with violations of visa protocol by local students. They do not appear to have taken my complaints seriously and have not responded to my specific requests to investigate these students since last December.

"When officials in Islamabad realise that something has gone wrong they try to cover up for the sake of the people involved. But the system appears to be a mess."

Dr Gosling was told about two students by the British Council last autumn. Two men, then aged 20, had obtained visas by claiming that they would be working on a council scheme that no longer existed.

One of the two students was interviewed by Dr Gosling and admitted that he and his friend had gone to Britain under false pretences. According to letters seen by the Observer, they obtained visas with the help of a corrupt Pakistani lecturer, officials from a British charity and an academic in Britain. Dr Gosling asked the high commission to investigate their cases.

Dr Gosling, 64, a physicist and former fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge, said that he knew many of the people working at the high commission and believed that it was no longer functioning properly.

"There do seem to be major problems in Islamabad. Many of the staff are now working in Abu Dhabi because of the regularity of bomb threats. We have bomb threats at our college as well, but we ignore them," he said.

"I am concerned about these few fraudulent cases because I want to see the good students going to Britain and the bad ones held back."

A letter sent last week by Dr Gosling to the high commission, and seen by the Observer, identifies another student from Peshawar who he says has come to Britain on a fraudulent visa. The bogus student is still believed to be living in the UK, he added.

He said that he had decided to speak out because he agreed with the comments of Wajid Shamsul Hasan, the Pakistan high commissioner, who was roundly condemned by ministers last week for pointing the finger at the British High Commission.

In an interview with the Observer, Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, said on Saturday that Pakistan and other countries from which potential terrorists regularly tried to enter Britain would be placed on an international blacklist under Tory plans to prevent abuse of the student visa system.

He accepted that singling out certain nations -- likely also to include Afghanistan and Algeria -- for special treatment would be controversial.

But Dr Brian Iddon, vice-chairman of the parliamentary all-party group on Pakistan, warned against taking knee-jerk action in the heat of the moment.

"I don't want knee-jerk reactions. America tightened its controls and the academic institutions regretted it. I don't think we should tighten it up to the point where they start going to other countries like Germany. There are future benefits in terms of trade and the economy. We have to be very careful we are not over the top."

Pakistan seeks early release of arrested students
London: Pakistans High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan has appealed to the British government to release the 10 Pakistani students without further delay to undo the enormous damage done to their reputation.

At a press conference here on Monday, Mr Hasan said the UK security forces failed to find any evidence against the students who were arrested in dramatic circumstances and wrongly accused of hatching an "Easter Bomb Plot" which turned out to be another embarrassing intelligence failure.

He vowed that Pakistan would take up the case of these students to the level of the High Court, House of Lords and even the European Court.

Mr Hasan said the UK authorities had failed to bring charges under anti-terrorism legislation and, therefore, it would be only right to release these students and they should be compensated monetarily for troubles they had been through. "They should be allowed to carry on studying at their respective universities."

He said officials from the high commission were in touch with the students - currently being detained at Bradford, Manchester and Coventry - and had assured them of full assistance.

The HC regretted that Pakistan was initially kept in the dark about the nature of charges and proceedings of the probe despite many requests.

Four of the 10 students appealed against their arrest and detention on Friday, four launched appeals on Monday and the remaining will put up appeals on Tuesday.

It was made out in the media as if these students were to stage terrorist acts of huge proportions, he said.

The innocent students were maligned. The media has been proven wrong and now it's the moral duty of the media to vindicate Pakistan with the same amount of coverage, Mr Hasan demanded.

The high commissioner said Pakistan had high expectations from UKs well-known legal justice system and hoped these students would be allowed to complete their studies.

He said the British and American visa rules were the toughest in the world already and only a limited number of people were allowed entry into these countries after a stringent counter-checking process.

He said that of the 27,000 students who applied for student visas in legitimate British institutions, only 10,000 were given visas. Dawn

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Youth protest against favouritism in student exchange programme
Islamabad: Continuing to raise voice against the Ministry of Youth Affairs for selecting a delegation of 'favourites' for an all-expense paid trip to China under an exchange programme, a group of affected youngsters on Monday protested at Aabpara.

The 100-strong delegation went to China as part of the Youth Exchange Programme between Pakistan and China that has an aim of enhancing interaction between youth. According to by-laws, only boys and girls in the age group of 15-29, who have excelled in any field and have not travelled abroad on state expense before, are to be selected for this tour.

However, the delegation that went to China includes daughters and sons of the ministry's officials with more than half of the party hailing from Sindh and a big majority among them belonging to Larkana.

The protestors chanted slogans against the Ministry of Youth Affairs and blocked the Aabpara Chowk for about 20 minutes. Holding placards inscribed with slogans, they demanded a probe into the matter and also burnt an effigy of the youth minister.

Youth leaders including President of the Voice of Youth Rights Aneesur Rehman, Hannan Abbasi, Khurram Kiyani, Muhammad Kamran, Umair Nawaz and Waqar Hanif spoke on the occasion.

They called for making public the list of those selected for the China trip and demanded that a high-level committee be formed to ensure transparency in selection for such trips and award distributions by the government.

Urging the Supreme Court to take suo moto notice of the matter, they said that if reports of foul play in the selection are found to be correct, all those inducted on the basis of favouritism should be asked to pay for their own expenses on return. They claimed that some of the delegation members also did not fall into the right age bracket and named some others who had already made trips on government expense before.

China supports idea of expanding youth exchange programme
Beijing: Supporting the idea to continue exchange of youth delegations between Pakistan and China beyond existing five-years term, Vice-Chairman of NPC Standing Committee Wang Zhaoguo said here on Monday that it would help carry forward our existing strong bonds to next generations.

He expressed these views in response to the remarks made by Federal Minister for Youth Affairs Shahid Hussain Bhutto during a meeting with the VC of NPC. Bhutto said this was the 3rd youth delegation from Pakistan visiting China in line with the announcement made by Chinese President Hu Jintao during his state visit to Pakistan in 2006 that over a period of five years 500 youths from Pakistan would be invited to China.

He said the Pakistani government was also inviting 100 youth every year and the next batch from China was due in June 2009. "Youths are future of the nation and the hope of the world," Wang said while appreciating the proposal.

He said the exchanges will help bring young generations closer to understand history, culture and civilization of the two countries in a better way. The minister on the occasion briefed the Chinese official on the steps the Pakistan government had taken for the welfare of the young generation.

The minister apprised him of the ambitious National Internship Programme, youth training and vocational training programmes for youths in jails, benefits of the pilot project of 100 youth centres to be established at tehsil level and volunteers programme in Pakistan."Your colourful dresses and beautiful smiles have filled the Great Hall of the People with youthful vigour," Wang remarked while expressing his delight on the presence of Pakistani youths around him.At the Beijing International Airport, the Pakistani Youth delegation was seen off on Monday by senior officials of the Pakistan embassy. The News

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Unfair demands by school admin irk parents
Islamabad: The deplorable condition of government schools can be judged by the fact that administration of a girls school situated in the suburbs of Capital is forcing parents to bring some material goods in order to get their kids admitted in the school.

According to the sources, administration of F.G Girls Middle Model School Shahzad Town, a suburban area of Islamabad, demands material goods from the parents, when they bring their children to get admission in the school. "They are asking them to bring chairs, fans, cooler or any other item they wish to buy for the school," source added while seeking anonymity. It was also revealed that administration of school has done most of the developmental work with the help of parents.

They said that the unfair demands of school administration have put the future of children at stake, as poor people of the said area cannot afford to meet such odd orders.

When Principal of the F.G Girls Middle Model School, Madam Perveen Akhtar was contacted to comment on the issue, she said, "We are not forcing parents for material goods. In fact, we are just requesting them to contribute according to their affordability for improving the school condition," she added.

Due to shortage of founds, we are not able to buy furniture for the school and request from those who voluntarily contribute in the development process of school but do not pressurise those parent who cannot afford it. She said that well-off parents often helped the school to maintain school expenditures after realising financial crises have hit the institution. She maintained that some 400 chairs have been provided to the school by the children parents.

To a question regarding financial support of government, she informed that we have applied for funds and hopefully soon we could get enough amount required for the school.

She said that the administration is accommodating students in the school beyond its capacity as some 80 students are sitting in on classroom owing to shortage of rooms while the school is also facing furniture shortage.

"Unfortunately, most of the private schools of the twin cities are charging hefty amounts that usually pushed the poor parents towards government educational institutions but the unjust demands of public schools are now forcing parents to get their kids out of schools and put them in some type of child labour so that they can earn some livelihood for their families," an educational expert lamented while talking to us.

As far as condition of girl schools is concerned, the Pakistan School Statistics (2006-7) revealed that in Punjab alone, there are 5,085 girls primary schools without lavatories, 5,000 schools without drinking water, 14,000 lack electricity, 4,000 do not have a boundary wall. An additional 32,000 school buildings need (minor or major) repairs or have been declared dangerous. The Nation

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AIOU walk on World Book & Copyright Day
Islamabad: Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) will organise a walk tomorrow (Wednesday) to celebrate the World Book & Copyright Day to promote the habit of reading as well as the publishing and protection of intellectual property through copyright.

The walk, to be led by the AIOU vice chancellor, will start at 9:00am from the main gate of the University and end at the AIOU Library entrance. The aim of the World Book Day celebrations is to encourage the teaching staff and students to appreciate the value of book reading and inform them about the various sources of books and other informative material. The University library will display the latest additions of books in its main lobby, while the AIOU faculty members, staff, school children and booksellers will participate in the walk. The News

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WEC students seek affiliation with Wah University
Islamabad: Students of Wah Engineering College (WEC) on Monday staged a peaceful protest in front of Parliament House against non-affiliation of the college with the University of Wah. They shouted slogans against the university administration and the Punjab government. They were wearing college uniforms and holding placards and banners reading, 'our future is at stake', 'don't we have the right to degrees', and 'don't play politics with us'. The protested lasted more than four hours. "Our case is four-years-old and currently its file is lying at the Law Ministry, from where it will be referred to the provincial assembly.

The university administration is showing non-serious attitude on this matter," Kamal Yusuf, a final-year student said. He said vice chancellor (VC) and the registrar of the university are being paid hefty salaries but were not delivering their best. "This attitude affecting the students," he said. He said WEC principal was improving building infrastructure, laboratories, and the faculty of the college to meet the standards set by Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC). Others said they had protested on the university campus and in Wah Cantt too and continue protests until their demands were met. Daily Times

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