News International (Pakistan)
By our correspondent
July 19, 2005

'Canada to convert $2bn Pakistani debt into fresh aid'

KARACHI: Canada will convert around 2 billion dollars of debt into fresh aid for education promotion in Pakistan which would translate into around 100 million dollars for education.

This was announced by outgoing Canadian High Commissioner in Pakistan, Mrs Margaret Huber, at a reception arranged for her under the aegis of the English Speaking Union at a local hotel Monday evening.

Further highlighting Pakistan-Canada partnership in the field of education, she said that apart from government-to-government co-operation, Canada was aiding education in the private sector and in this regard she mentioned the major Canadian component in the Aga Khan Foundation Education Programmes in Pakistan. Last year alone, she said, the Canadian Government and aid agencies contributed $8.2 million under the umbrella of the Aga Khan Foundation.

In this context, she recalled the progress made in the literacy level in the Northern Areas and the consequent increase in the earning power and the income level in these areas, especially that of women, which, she said had, in turn enhanced the health level and gone towards mitigating the gender gap.

However, she said, lots was still left to be desired about the health, education and social welfare indicators in Pakistan.

In reply to a question pertaining Canada-Pakistan trade, she said that while Canadian exports to Pakistan were substantial, Pakistani exports to Canada were well below the mark.

Referring to other avenues of co-operation, she said that Canada was financing a wind power project near Karachi and that 37 villages had been chosen for the pilot project.

Praising the process of India-Pakistan rapprochement, she underlined the need to enhance bilateral trade between the two countries.

She also lauded President Musharraf for his "unfailing" commitment to the war on terror.

In the course of the mention of Canada’s help in combating HIV/Aids in Pakistan, she said that last year Canada contributed 30 million dollars for the Lady Health Visitor (LHV) training programme.

As for the Canadian role in the US-led global war on terror, she said, "We are in Afghanistan for a long haul".

APP adds: The Canadian Ambassador held out the assurance that the visa process would be made easier and more transparent.

She said that Canada was now focusing on 25 countries, out of 100 states where she was involved, and Pakistan would be one of the priority states.

She said during her stay in Pakistan for the last two years, she had had the privilege of working closely with "one of your native sons", Byram Avari, the Honourary Consul for Canada in Karachi.

"Our Consulate has provided many services to Canadians visiting Sindh", she said.

Pakistan, she said, was a country of great diversity with a people whose talents and expectations far outstripped opportunities that had been available to them.