Jameel Ahmad Khan (centre), Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UAE, with Tarek Iqbal Soomro (right), Consul General, and Zahoor Shujra, a prominent Pakistan community member during a function to mark Benazir Bhutto’s birthday. Image Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: A Dubai-based university established by the late Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto has announced an offer of 80 scholarships to Pakistani students who cannot afford to attend university.

"This is a birthday gift from our university for the Pakistani community in the UAE," said Dr Fiaz M. Ishaq, head of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute for Science and Technology (SZABIST) — based in Dubai International Academic City.

He was speaking at a function organised by the university to mark the 58th birthday of Benazir Bhutto, who was the founding chancellor of the university and established its off-shore campus in Dubai in 2003.

Dr Ishaq said that some 20 scholarships would be given to Pakistani students in Pakistani schools in the UAE who pass their higher secondary school exams. Every year 20 more scholarships will be added and a total of 80 students will get scholarships within four years.

Fund committee

"[The] university will waive 25 per cent of the tuition fee while some 50 per cent [of the] fee will be paid from the scholarship fund to be established by the university whereas 25 per cent fee will be paid by the student," he explained.

The scholarship fund committee will comprise members of the university, Pakistani schools, Pakistani missions and prominent community members.

"Our aim is to help provide higher education to poor students who cannot afford to continue their studies and forced to quit education," Dr Ishaq said.

He said the university would also provide vocational and skilled training to poor students after high school.

"We will help them get jobs and will also help them get their degrees studying as part time students," he added.

The university's community initiative was well received by Pakistan Ambassador Jameel Ahmad Khan and the community members who attended the function.

"We are ready to support the university for the noble cause," said Khan.

Earlier, rich tribute was paid to Benazir Bhutto, who was born on June 21, 1953 and assassinated on December 27, 2007 during an election campaign in Pakistan.

Supporters of Bhutto from all over the UAE gathered to offer prayers in her memory. Many were in tears as they recounted instances of their interaction with Bhutto during her eight years self-exile in Dubai.

Brave leader

"She was a brave leader and was symbol of hope and struggle," said Ambassador Khan who also recited one of Bhutto's favourite poems. Mein Baghi Houn, Mein Baghi Houn (I am revolutionary).

On a different note, supporters of Bhutto such as Chaudhry Zafar Iqbal demanded that the Pakistan government track down the murderers of Bhutto.

"It is very disappoint[ing] for us that our government has not yet arrested those involved in our leader's murder," he said.