At an annual reception hosted for Pak-France Alumni Network (PFAN) on Monday, students and their spouses requested French envoy, Philippe Thiébaud, to revise the visa policy for students studying in France.
A large number of alumni and PFAN members gathered at the French embassy for the annual dinner. Apart from PFAN members, several vice-chancellors of universities and government representatives, including from the Higher Education Commission (HEC), attended the reception.
PFAN President Dr Amir Qayyum said the association organises cultural, scientific and educational events to promote greater understanding of French and Pakistani cultures in Islamabad as well as other cities through its branches in Lahore, Karachi and Quetta.
Speaking about PFAN, Qayyum said, “This is a great way to keep both the countries linked as well as the students to still be associated with their institutions through various programmes.”
Spouses of two former students, who requested their names be withheld, said that although the programme is commendable, some things need to change. It’s very hard for spouses to get visas to visit France, said one of them. “My husband was away for four years and my visa was rejected thrice,” she said.
They were of the view that a more flexible policy should be adopted to facilitate those who wish to visit the country. “The visa policy is very strict and at times unfair,” she added.
Ambassador Thiébaud told The Express Tribune that they try to facilitate Pakistanis as much as they can, but because they have to apply for a Schengen visa, there is very little that they can do in this regard. “We have to abide by the rules and laws of our European partners,” he said.
Since 1994, the HEC, and the French embassy have sponsored numerous fellowships for Pakistani scholars in France. Around 600 students studying in France are currently benefitting from this collaboration. Most of them have started to return and are getting involved in research activities in institutions and universities across Pakistan.
PFAN is an association of Pakistani alumni who have graduated from French universities.
The organisation was founded in 2009, with the support of the French embassy and aims to promote cultural and scientific ties between France and Pakistan. Currently, PFAN consists of 180 members, one third of whom are presently in France.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2012.
More in PakistanFafen Report: Malaria cases doubled in March