The Oxford Pakistan Programme launched its constituent initiatives at Lady Margaret Hall (“LMH”), part of the University of Oxford

The Oxford Pakistan Programme launched its constituent initiatives on Thursday 26th May at

Lady Margaret Hall (“LMH”), part of the University of Oxford, where both Benazir Bhutto and

Malala Yousafzai studied for their undergraduate degrees. The launch was attended by

around 200 distinguished guests, including Malala Yousafzai, the High Commissioner for

Pakistan, Naz Shah MP, Yasmin Qureshi MP and Sohaib Abbasi. Senior academics and

administrators from within the University of Oxford were also in attendance, including

Professor Christine Gerrard (Principal of LMH), Helen Mountfield QC (Principal of Mansfield

College), Dr Saira Sheikh (Academic Registrar), Dr Samina Khan (Director of Undergraduate

Admissions & Outreach), Dr Nadia Pollini (Director of Graduate Admissions & Recruitment)

and Liesl Elder (Chief Development Officer).

The Oxford Pakistan Programme (the “OPP”) is the first initiative of its kind through which a

concerted effort is being made to generate momentum on various Pakistan-related activities

at the University of Oxford. The OPP has three core objectives; i) to address the

underrepresentation of Pakistani and British Pakistani students at Oxford; ii) to raise the

academic profile of Pakistan and Pakistan-related areas of interest amongst Oxford’s faculty;

and iii) to promote the global connectivity of Pakistani academic institutions by promoting

academic exchange between them and Oxford.

The OPP is led by Professor Adeel Malik (Associate Professor of Development Economics at

Oxford), Dr Talha J. Pirzada (Lecturer in Material Science & Junior Research Fellow at Oxford),

Haroon Zaman (Trainee Lawyer at Travers Smith LLP) and Minahil Saqib (Associate Director at

Barclays). They lead a team comprising of academics, student and alumni of Oxford, including

Dr Mohsin Javed, Alina Salahuddin, Danial Hussain and Rabii Malik.

Laying down the broad vision of the OPP, Professor Adeel Malik, an OPP co-founder,

highlighted the need to broaden academic conversations on Pakistan beyond traditional

discourses. He explained how Pakistan can be a portal through which many of the challenges

of developing countries can be analyzed, acting as a useful laboratory for some of the central

questions of social science ranging from climate change, social justice and tax reform. In this

way, the OPP is a platform for academic conversations that start with Pakistan, but do not

end with Pakistan.

Professor Malik announced that the OPP had launched the Allama Muhammad Iqbal Lecture

Series (the “Iqbal Lecture”), named after poet, philosopher and lawyer Allama Muhammad

Iqbal. Supported by the Dadabhoy Foundation, the Iqbal Lecture was held for the first time in

Oxford on Thursday 19th May 2022, at which Professor Wael B. Hallaq of Columbia University

spoke on the topic of “The Ethics of Empire and Wealth: Ibn Khaldun and the Modern State”.

The Iqbal Lecture generated huge interest, both in Oxford and in Pakistan, where it was

broadcast live across lecture halls in twenty universities in Pakistan, including in remote parts

of Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan, engaging with over 200,000

students. Professor Malik also announced the launch of research grants for graduate studentsat Oxford of any background to study Pakistan or a Pakistan-related area of interest, as well

as to facilitate such students’ field work in Pakistan.

Dr Talha J. Pirzada, a co-founder of the OPP, revealed that the OPP has secured commitments

of just under £1million over the next five years to fund various initiatives as part of the OPP,

including a scholarship program for graduate students at Oxford of Pakistani origin. He

explained that over twenty students from Pakistan each year are unable to take up graduate

offers to study at Oxford due to a lack of funding, while there are only 13 undergraduate and

45 graduate students from Pakistan at the University, despite over 60% of Pakistan’s

population of 220 million people being under the age of 30. Dr Pirzada announced that the

OPP would be offering up to three scholarships in its initial round, with the first set of OPP

graduate scholars commencing study at LMH in October 2022, allowing these students to take

advantage of Oxford’s world class facilities and teaching program, as well as its plethora

of wider academic opportunities. He also announced the launch of the OPP’s Visiting Fellow

Program, including a program developed in partnership with the Malala Fund, the

Government of Sindh and non-profit Durbeen, to provide opportunities for Pakistani

academics to take advantage of Oxford’s research facilities and global academic network.

Dr Pirzada thanked the OPP’s diverse community of donors for their support, which include

Abdul Ghani Dadabhoy, Ahmed Owais Pirzada, Amir Hashmi, Areeb Azam, Asad Ghauri, Azam

Chaudhry, Bilal Hussain, Habib Anwar, Hamid Ismail, the High Commission for Pakistan,

Malala Yousafzai, Mohammad Qasim, Nawaz Khokhar, Omar Ghauri, Dr Omer Suleman,

Sarwar Khawaja, Shamyl Malik, Syed Sheharyar Ali and Dr Tariq Zaman. The OPP was

particularly grateful to Abdul Ghani Dadabhoy, Oxford alumnus, for his sponsorship of the


Haroon Zaman, an OPP co-founder, highlighted how British Pakistanis are the most

underrepresented BAME group at Oxford, despite being the UK’s second largest ethnic

minority community. Mr Zaman announced the launch of the OPP’s bursary programme,

which provides supplementary financial support to existing Pakistani origin graduate students

at Oxford. He also announced the launch of the OPP’s access programme, a pioneering

initiative as part of which the OPP is facilitating school visits by Oxford students and recent

alumni, to speak with prospective Oxbridge applicants in schools in the UK located in areas

with high numbers of British Pakistani students, as well as virtual engagements with schools

in Pakistan. Such visits build confidence in prospective applicants as well as giving them

application support. As part of the OPP’s access programme, an insight day at law firm Travers

Smith LLP was also announced, to provide an insight into careers in the City of London to

Oxford students of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, developing a pathway to such career


Minahil Saqib, the OPP’s Outreach Lead, launched the OPP’s internship program through

which the OPP is, in partnership with Venture for Pakistan, providing internship opportunities

for young students and graduates from Oxford and from Pakistani universities. She

highlighted that the internship program would allow participants to experience Pakistan’s

booming start-up ecosystem, which is at an exciting inflection point.

Najy Benhassine, the Country Director for Pakistan at the World Bank, announced his strong

support for the internship program, in the form of a structured eight-week internship at

the World Bank’s office in Islamabad which would enable four students from Oxford and four

from a public sector university in Pakistan to intern at the World Bank every year.

Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person ever to be awarded a Nobel Prize and an alumna of

LMH, explained that she has been a supporter of the OPP from its inception, which represents

an extraordinary platform providing opportunities for students and researchers of Pakistani

origin. She announced her establishment of a graduate scholarship for Pakistani women at

Oxford as part of the OPP and expressed her wish that the OPP be a long-lasting project at

the University. She thanked LMH and all those who had provided their support to the OPP to

make possible its establishment and expressed pride at the achievements of the OPP team.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, termed the OPP a pioneering

effort to establish a focal point for academic engagement, as well as to generate solutions to

Pakistan’s challenges. He expressed great personal pride at the OPP being supported by LMH,

the College where his beloved mother, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed, studied, and from

where she went on to become the first female head of a democratic state in the Muslim

world. He wished the OPP every success.

Professor Christine Gerrard, Principal of LMH, highlighted the importance of LMH’s long

association with Pakistan, with alumnae including Benazir Bhutto and Malala Yousafzai. She

also emphasised the synergy between the OPP and LMH, given the shared emphasis on

diversity, inclusion and the empowerment of underrepresented communities. She explained

how LMH has supported and hosted the OPP’s constituent initiatives from its inception and

promised strong and continued support for its development, while expressing delight at its

progress in such a short span of time.

Syed Babar Ali, founder of the Lahore University of Management Sciences, termed this

initiative as a historic effort, the first of its kind, that will unlock incommensurate

opportunities for Pakistani scholars and has huge transformative potential, both for

individuals and for educational linkages between the UK and Pakistan. He applauded the hard

work and commitment of the OPP team in bringing their vision to reality and urged support.

Dr Elizabeth Kiss, the Warden of Rhodes House and CEO of the Rhodes Trust, announced the

Rhodes Trust’s campaign for a second Rhodes Scholarship for Pakistan, supported by the OPP.

A group of Pakistani Rhodes scholars, led by Mohammed Khaishgi, CEO of TRG Global, have

already raised $60,000 towards this goal.

On this occasion, statements of support were also made Naz Shah MP, Yasmin Qureshi MP

and by H.E. Mr. Moazzam Ahmad Khan, High Commissioner for Pakistan, who emphasized the

support of the High Commission for Pakistan for the OPP in the form of their establishment

of an OPP graduate bursary. The OPP thanked all attendees at its launch for their support for

the OPP, through which a powerful network of academics, policymakers, businesspeople and

professionals has been created to facilitate the uplift of Pakistani communities by investing in

talented individuals, as well as by developing solutions to Pakistan’s development challenges.

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