Pakistani coup casts UK shadow

October 22, 1999

Almost 2,000 Pakistani students studying in the United Kingdom could face problems following last week's military coup.

Self-funding students are experiencing difficulties in getting money out of the country. In future, Commonwealth scholarship schemes could also be closed to Pakistani students.

"We have a student saying he has foreign exchange problems and we are looking into it," said a spokeswoman for the University of Hull.

She added that most of the university's Pakistani students had paid their tuition fees before the military takeover.

The future of a Pakistani student accepted for a scholarship place at the University of Bristol hangs in the balance. The student has had difficulties getting a visa and is still in Pakistan.

The Association of Commonwealth Universities, meanwhile, is reportedly getting cold feet about admitting him. "It is very unlucky for him," said Judith Tyler, the university's student finance officer.

The Pakistan military regime was banned from any involvement in the Commonwealth this week. If democracy is not restored, it is likely that Pakistan will be suspended from the Commonwealth next month. Aid has been frozen and scholarship schemes classify as aid.

"There is no question of existing scholarships being suspended. However, students who are coming over and have not arrived yet may experience delays," said a spokesman for the Department for International Development.

According to the British Council, some 13 Pakistani students started scholarships funded by the Commonwealth this year, bringing the total of sponsored students to 46. A further 50 started Chevening scholarships.

"Those Pakistani students who are already here or have confirmed places will have their Commonwealth scholarship schemes honoured," said Dorothy Garland, head of external affairs at the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

The ACU charter was changed to allow universities to remain members when a country left the Commonwealth just before Hong Kong was handed back to China.

Under the charter, the 23 Pakistani university members could remain members of the ACU if they wished. If the universities do choose to remain members, the ACU could continue to offer Pakistani students scholarships from its own funds. But if the universities left the ACU, they would have to wait until Pakistan rejoined the Commonwealth before becoming eligible for ACU membership.

More than 1,900 Pakistani students studied at UK universities last year, and 63 per cent were postgraduates.

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