MIRPUR, 22 MAY (DNA) – Sardar Masood Khan, President Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Monday said that a state of the art industrial zone will be established in Mirpur under the umbrella of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
“This zone itself will, perforce, put a demand on AJK universities to produce graduates and skilled personnel who would be able to run various enterprises in industrial zone. This would also stimulate competitiveness and knowledge-intensive economic activities,” he said.
The President AJK who is also the chancellor of Mirpur University of Science and Technology (MUST) was addressing a seminar on ‘Promoting of Technology and Entrepreneurship in Azad Jammu and Kashmir,’ organized by MUST and Sandbox Pvt Limited.
The President said, “Azad Kashmir can be turned into Silicon valley and IT hub, which could supplement and augment Pakistan’s burgeoning IT market. It can also host high-tech corporations and venture capital.”
He said, “Knowledge is an overarching framework for development of any region or country. In Azad Kashmir we should consciously build a knowledge society and a knowledge-based economy. Azad Kashmir is ripe for that kind of transition.”
Masood Khan advised all the universities of AJK to reconfigure their curricula in the light of the emerging economic landscape, especially with reference to AJK’s integration with CPEC.
“Their competencies should be relevant to infrastructure development, power generation and management of energy plants, industrial parks, fiber optics, mining, agricultural farms, growing fruits and flowers, for this purpose, the universities should set up business schools and training institutions to equip graduates with the skills of corporate management, finance and marketing, among others,” he said.
He said, “Now knowledge economies are entrepreneurial economies; and they are technology-driven. Overall, at the moment the technology threshold in AJK is low, but we are bound to expand it as we build dams, construct expressways, promote tourism, and accelerate overall economic growth.”
He informed that, “For promotion of technology and entrepreneurship, the AJK Government will strengthen efforts to enhance space for the private sector. This is necessary to absorb the growing skilled manpower and to unleash the full potential of small and medium sized businesses.”
The President advised to create a strong interface between industry, the private sector and academic instructions, industry and institutions like MUST should work more closely. He urged the AJK Chamber of Commerce and Industry to act as a matchmaker between industry, business and universities.
He further advised that, “Embryonic IT entities and enterprises in AJK should tie up their endeavours with all AJK universities, as well as with Pakistani universities, and establish work closely with the University of Kotli specializing in management sciences and IT, and MUST.”
“Let us attract our Diaspora community back to Azad Kashmir, especially in the IT sector, my sense is that they are ready to do so if we together create the right conditions. Simultaneously, we should assimilate our own talent into our economic ecosystem,” he said.
Masood Khan assured that, “AJK’s IT Board and IT Department would become more active and dynamic. They have resource constraints but that deficit would be addressed.”
He told that, “The Pakistan District Education Rankings 2016 report released by Alif Ailaan and Sustainable Development Policy Institute established that AJK is ahead of national Pakistani average of literacy and other educational indicators, except Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), scoring 81.68.”
“We have five universities, two of which are devoted to science and technology, management sciences and information technology, within these universities and several post graduate colleges, we have emerging pockets of excellence which need to be smartly linked up,” he added.
He asked to learn to manage knowledge for sustained and sustainable development. “Though leading in literacy, AJK is lagging behind in quality and infrastructure, our challenge is to promote qualitative knowledge and learn knowledge management,” he said.
He emphasized to give higher importance to the core disciplines of mathematics and basic sciences to sustain this effort.
Sardar Masood Khan pointed out that, “We have certain advantages like – an educated class, a growing middle class, a compact economic geography, emerging salutary economic environment, proximity to Pakistan’s 200 million population, contiguity with Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, connectivity with CPEC, and through it with East, Central and West Asia. Like Pakistan, Azad Kashmir too has a youth budge and nearly 60 percent of our youth are entering into the labour market.”
He advised the concerned sectors to take optimum benefit from all these factors; AJK has to skillfully use entrepreneurship as a catalyst.
He further said, “Existing and potential strengths that mentioned before , Azad Kashmir seems ready to become a technology hub, with a sharp focus on IT encompassing start up incubators, business acceleration, and software houses. With the launch of 3G and 4G coverage in Azad Kashmir, such tasks would become easier.”
The President warned that, “Unbaked, uniformed policies or misaligned aspirations will not do the miracle. Incubators will fail if they are not properly seeded up. We need technological innovations and inroads into the neighbouring markets to realize this ambition.”
“As we go along, we should have more universities in Azad Kashmir, the present base is narrow and will not be able to meet the rising demands from the public and private sectors, let Azad Kashmir become a haven for knowledge,” the President said.
The President said, “Opposition to meritocracy is rampant and it is a big barrier to the emergence of a fully vibrant and self-reliant Azad Kashmir. People, not just politicians, bureaucrats and teachers, are used to hindering decisions based on merit. They invoke ethnicity, regionalism, and parochialism to distort the very definition of merit.”
“I must say they should not succeed, would not succeed, interference in educational institutions spawns corruption, nepotism and favouratism. We should tackle these problems by promoting a culture of accountability, reducing interference and working for high quality of education,” he said.