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Meet Neesha Sultan

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The Young Female Captain of the National Net Ball Team of Pakistan

Neesha Sultan hails from Ghizer in Gilgit-Baltistan. A sports-enthusiast since childhood, she has managed to accomplish being a Netball champion. Currently, she is a member of the WAPDA’s women’s Netball team. Her list of accomplishments also includes, but is not limited to, winning a Silver Medal in the National Netball Championship, 2019 and a Gold Medal as a part of WAPDA’s Netball team in 2020. She has also represented Pakistan as an under-16 Girls Netball Coach on an international scale.

Ms. Sultan now boasts to be the Captain of the Pakistan Netball Team.

However, this success has not come easy for her, she explains, as she talks to our team.

The Karakoram: First and foremost, congratulations on your extraordinary achievement, Neesha, We would like you to share your life journey with our readers.

I am Neesha Sultan, daughter of Sultan Ullah Baig (Late). I belong to Golodass, district Ghizer, Gilgit-Baltistan. I completed my early studies from Ghizer after which I moved to Karachi to pursue further studies in 2019 and pursued a bachelors in Psychology. I was a sports enthusiast since the initial days of my school and took part in many sports events at school and college level.

After moving to Karachi along with graduation I started developing interest in netball and started practicing at the Pakistan Sports Board facility in Karachi with the Sindh team in 2019. Later in 2019 I was selected to represent Sindh Women Netball team at National level, for the first time I played National Netball championship in 2019 and ended up winning a silver medal. A trial for selection of under 16 Girls Netball coach to represent Pakistan in Nepal was conducted in 2019, I took part among other coaches and was selected to represent Pakistan at international level and toured Nepal with the under-16 Netball girls’ team in September 2019.

After that I was selected for a course of coaching in Singapore. My urge to represent Pakistan at international level pushed me to explore further opportunities and in 2020 I gave a trial for WAPDA women’s Netball team. By the Grace of Almighty Allah, I was selected for the training camp of WAPDA Netball team and got selected among the top 12 to represent WAPDA at National level. I ended up winning gold medal in Netball Championship that year. Since then, I have been a part of WAPDA women’s National Netball team among the top 7 and have represented at national championships in 2021 and 2022, winning best goal shooter (GS) of the tournament and gold medal respectively.

My chance to represent Pakistan internationally happened this year for me when trials were conducted by the Pakistan Netball Federation for Pakistan junior netball team to represent Pakistan at Singapore. Players from different provinces took part in the trials and I was selected among the top 10 players. This was a big achievement and by the grace of Almighty Allah I was given the chance to lead team Pakistan as Captain of the Junior girls’ team at the Singapore series.

The tour consisted of 3 matches, and, Alhamdulilah, we were able to win the series (2-1).

Currently, I am a part of WAPDA women’s Netball team and pursuing my masters from Karachi university in physical education. I am also a netball coach at city school Karachi.

My future endeavors include representing Pakistan on different international levels and to promote nationally, especially in my region Gilgit Baltistan, to inspire girls from my region to take part in such activities along with their studies.

The Karakoram: Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.

Struggle has to be part of life to achieve your goals; normally we narrate the stories of success leaving behind the hurdles that we come across. The sudden demise of father, who was my biggest support, left me with a large void in my life. Three days after the demise of my father, my matriculation papers were due. I was in a state of trauma and the situation was not such where I could have focused on my examination, as the grades here could have put me in a better college in future. I was sitting in a corner of room, holding the book and examination slip in my hand.  

My mother, who is a strong lady, has always come over the odds like a solid mountain. She came to me in the corner of room without a tear in her and wiping my tears, embracing me, she told me not to lose myself here. It was in that moment I realized that the struggles of real begin here for me. My mother boosted my morale I decided to appear in examination. I locked myself in a room with books and put all my efforts for the annual examination. The hard work with a grieving heart paid me once the results happened; I was able to pass my examination with good grades.

 It was hard to digest the loss of my father who was a best friend, teaching me every aspect of life. Gradually with every passing day his loss left me in a state of depression.  My family and I decided to give me a change and I shifted me to Gilgit city away from my hometown “Gulodass’. I secured admission in a college and lived in a hostel.

Here, I focused all my energy on studies. I also took part in most of games like volleyball, handball and cricket as it was a good activity to improve my mental health. After attending one year of college, I transferred back to my village, as I wanted to live near my mother and in my own house. I graduated the ‘Intermediate Part II’ examination with good grades.

Now, it was time to emphasize and decide, to move ahead in life and pursue my further studies. Thus, I moved to Karachi. It was time for me to reinvent myself in a different environment, in a city of opportunities. I struggled experimenting different things but failed each time. Life again was not very smooth after chaotic three years of fighting mental health, depression and getting over with the void that was left in my life. Stuck in a similar situation, losing confidence and unable to understand what to do in life, it felt like the situation was blocking me from striving in any field.

‘Netball’ came to me as a life changing aspect, thereafter a stability and happiness has become part of me again.

The Karakoram: What inspired you during your journey? How did you overcome the obstacles that stood in your way to success?

My inspiration has always been my father, who taught me to be a warrior and always fly even your wings are clipped. His life journey has taught me never to lose hope no matter what life offers you.

I was now part of this big metropolitan, where the impetus of life runs at lightning speed. Once you look around you see everyone is in a hurry with horns blazing, vendors shouting. Moving out from home, going to ‘University’ and ‘Netball’ on weekends using public transport was more challenging to me then climbing a mountain, as I have never been alone on the roads before.

With each passing day, I have started catching up with the pace of life and gradually getting used to it. In the beginning my sister bear all the expenses for my academics and other necessities but she always wanted me to be an independent woman. Now, I was at point where life look bit stable, I got into a university, was part of a ‘Netball Academy’ the only missing thing was to look for a Job and start bearing my own expenses.

I started a job in early 2019 with a small corporate company. Later that year I joined Pakistan Netball Federation managing their day-to-day activities. I was now able to look after my own expenditures including my educational costs. After, working there for a year, I began working as the ‘Netball Coach’ for girls at ‘City School’. Initially it seems difficult to manage a job in morning, attending classes in evening and going for training on weekends, but to grow in life you have to pass through such phases of life.

Now, I am an employee at Pakistan WAPDA, as I play for them in National Championships. Besides that, I also work as ‘Netball Coach’ at a private school. ‘Alhamdulillah’,

The Karakoram: What clubs, teams, or other extracurricular activities have you been involved in so far during your career?

Initially, I started practicing and playing ‘Netball’ with ‘Elite Netball Academy’ managed by Pakistan Netball Federation back in 2018. After doing one year rigorous training in year 2019, trials of ‘Sindh Netball Team’ were conducted to represent Sindh at National level. Amongst other players I was selected among the top 12 players. This indeed was a big moment in my ‘Netball’ career to play at National level. After representing Sindh in 2019, my urge to grow as a Netball player remained the top priority, while participating at National level, I was inspired by the players from Pakistan WAPDA, who looked more professional on the ground. I then decided to join WAPDA.

WAPDA conducted trials for its camp before the National Championship in 2020 and I was selected among 30 players for camp. After a month-long training it was finally time for selection of team and by the Grace of Almighty Allah, I was selected among the top 10 players, representing WAPDA at National level. Since then, I have been part of WAPDA. Internationally, I have lead Pakistan Junior Netball Team as captain in a series held in Singapore. Other than this I have been working as a Netball coach at different schools and colleges.

The Karakoram: Describe your major highlights and achievements in sports in the past.

At National level, I have won silver medal with Team Sindh in 2019. I have played and won Gold Medal with team WAPDA for a consecutive three years i.e., 2020, 2021 and 2022. I was declared the best Goal Shooter at National Championship for team WAPDA in 2021 and 2022.

I have also been the under -6 Girls Netball Team Coach in 2020. Moreover, I have also represented and lead Pakistan in the under-21 Girls Team in Singapore.

The Karakoram: How do you manage your athletic responsibilities and other recreational and non-recreational activities?

What I learned from life is that if you want to follow your passion, you have to push your limits. Though managing a full time Job, university, house chores and playing sports is challenging task, but to achieve bigger goals in life, one should not quit on anything.

The Karakoram: Which strengths do you believe you have that make you a great athlete?

The fighting spirit, I inherited from my father, to go an extra mile in the process of achieving something and keeping a light of hope in heart even in times of failure and disappointment. My father taught me that sky is the limit and that failure will not only teach you a lesson but it will build your character to win the next time you try.

The Karakoram: What advice would you give to young women with dreams of succeeding in sports or in life?

Never stop chasing your dreams. Nothing is impossible if you work hard enough for it. Set goals, and don’t give up until you achieve them. Keep pushing boundaries and setting new levels. Believe in yourself and your dreams, always. The rest will fall into place, so be patient, worry less and chase your dreams. Enjoy the journey, appreciate the little things and know that if you follow what makes you happy in the day to day. Surround yourself with the people who support you and add sparkle to your life. Embrace challenges and hug your fears tightly, be brave in the moments when you want to turn away.

The Karakoram: Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers of The Karakoram Magazine?

I am honored and grateful to the Team of ‘The Karakoram Magazine’ for considering me to be part of your magazine. I highly appreciate your efforts. It has not only encouraged me to strive more in life but it will also inspire girls from our region to fight for their dreams, whether it could be sports or any other field of life. I hope you will cover more stories about the successful girls especially from Gilgit Baltistan.

I wish you best of luck for the future endeavors of the magazine.

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Rahman Shah: A Journey from KIU to Bureaucracy

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Mr. Rahman Shah is a bright and shining alumnus of the Karakoram International University (KIU), who is currently working as Provincial Administrative Secretary for the Education Department of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. Mr. Shah has earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a master’s degree in International Relations with distinction from Karakoram International University, Gilgit. He is also a proud recipient of the prestigious Hubert Humphrey fellowship, where he completed a fellowship program in Public Policy Analysis and Public Administration at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, USA.

Mr. Shah began his professional career as a Social Organizer in a UNDP-funded project. Later on, he joined the civil service of Gilgit-Baltistan as an Assistant Commissioner. Since then, he has served in various public offices in different capacities, including Deputy Commissioner, Deputy Secretary, Divisional Commissioner, and now as Provincial Secretary for the Education Department. His association with KIU is not limited to just being an alumnus; he also served in the KIU Senate, which is the apex body of the Karakoram International Universityi.

With his administrative and social services, Mr. Shah has a keen interest in research and literary work. He has conducted research on a variety of topics, including ecotourism and cultural heritage tourism as a way forward for tourism development in Gilgit-Baltistan, the role of religious organizations in spreading sectarianism in Pakistan, and the impact of globalization on mountain communities.

Mr. Rahman Shah is a beacon of light and a role model for the students of KIU. In this interview, he will share his life journey, experiences, and achievements, offering valuable insights for aspiring professionals in his field.

The Karakoram: How would you narrate your educational journey?

Rahman Shah: I am excited to share my educational journey that I am proud to have completed in the beautiful city of Gilgit. My formal education began when I enrolled at Diamond Jubilee (DJ) School, Gilgit, followed by completing my secondary education at the renowned Govt. High School No.1, Gilgit. Finally, I accomplished my Master’s degree in International Relations with a gold medal from our very own Karakoram International University, which is a moment that I cherish and remember fondly.

Reflecting upon my journey, it encompasses both formal and informal education experiences that every child encounters throughout their life. However, university life was one of the best parts of my educational training for various reasons. University prepares one to take on the future responsibilities in society by offering academic nurturing, technical skills, interpersonal skills, workshops, conferences, and other opportunities to mature one’s professional and personal credentials or skills, allowing for better decision-making. I owe my alma mater a great deal of credit for enhancing my skills, which have been invaluable throughout my professional career.

KIU has made tremendous progress in a short period, and it is essential to highlight this. However, when I enrolled in KIU, the institution was in a nascent stage, experiencing a transitional phase with limited resources as it was upgraded from a degree college to a university. As a pioneer student, I was enthusiastic about having such an excellent seat of learning at my doorstep. Learning higher education in our own city was a mixed feeling of apprehension and happiness, and it was a moment in history that we committed to return with our achievements to honor this institution. Today, when I contemplate, I see that both students and teachers work tremendously hard in challenging conditions to set academic norms, values, and thrive on a culture of intellectual inquiry for this newly established university.

The Karakoram: Tell us something about your social and professional life; how did you find the civil service working with non-governmental organizations?

Rahman Shah: As a person with an educational background focused on the evolving global conditions, I have always believed in the importance of a social life, as it contributes significantly to shaping individual lives. During my university years, I was one of the most sociable students in my batch, with a good number of friends, both students and teachers, with whom I would often engage in academic and social discussions, celebrate parties, and hang out. Additionally, I had the opportunity to write opinions and publish them in the weekly newspapers of Gilgit. My elder brother, who is a writer, poet, and literary person, played a pivotal role in developing my interest in history, literature, and poetry, and I benefited significantly from his collection of books and personal library at home. This enabled me to develop a reading habit, professional grooming, and prepared me for future roles.

In terms of my professional engagements, I believe that creating harmony between personal and professional life is vital for a healthy and productive life. I started my career as a social organizer, working with remote and tribal societies of Diamer in early 2006, which gave me a unique experience and exposure for furtherance in my career. Later, I qualified for the competitive examination and joined the civil service of Gilgit-Baltistan as an Assistant Commissioner in 2007. Since then, I have had the opportunity to serve in various districts of GB as an Assistant Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, which provided me with a diverse exposure and experience of managing a district as an administrative head. The role of Deputy Commissioner is pivotal and involves carrying out a variety of functions ranging from maintaining law and order to overseeing the performance of various government departments, ensuring good governance, and facilitating day-to-day affairs of the public.

In my opinion, working in the non-governmental sector and serving in the civil administration/government are two different formats of working conditions and requirements. Although both sectors aim to improve the social and living conditions of society, collectively speaking, a more holistic development requires a collective effort and reinforcement of each other to mobilize resources and communities. The public office regulates and ensures good governance mechanisms with a more inclusive and transparent process for all, leading to a more effective and efficient administration.

The Karakoram: Tell us about your experience, as a senate member in KIU.

Rahman Shah: Serving as a Senate member in KIU has been a truly rewarding experience for me. Working alongside some of the brightest minds in Pakistan, including senior academics, policy practitioners, government officials, and civil society leaders, has allowed me to learn a great deal about policy making and governance. As a vocal member of the Senate, I have always supported innovative ideas that KIU has taken on, and have contributed to knowledge creation and evidence-based decision making. One particular initiative that I am proud to have supported is the establishment of a Research Centre on Socio-economic opportunities, with a focus on CPEC and Belt and Road initiatives. I am pleased to see that this Centre is now fully functional and has published several empirical research papers with policy implications. Overall, my time as a Senate member in KIU has been a great honor and privilege, and has allowed me to make meaningful contributions to the advancement of education and research in Pakistan.

The Karakoram: Your perception about KIU?

Rahman Shah: In my view, KIU is an essential institution for producing and disseminating knowledge and wisdom among the people of GB. Through its academic programs, KIU has already made significant contributions to the socio-economic development of our region by producing a large number of competent graduates. As a seat of higher education, KIU has the potential to harness the human and natural resources of the region to promote sustainable and viable development, not only within GB but beyond its borders as well. I believe that KIU will continue to play a critical role in shaping the future of our region by equipping students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy.

The Karakoram: Tell us if you had any challenges encountered as a student in the campus, from the faculty maybe.

Rahman Shah: Alhamdulillah, we have spent a wonderful and productive time at KIU and left a legacy of peace and harmony. Most of our teachers were friendly in nature, and they gave their maximum time for imparting knowledge to their students wholeheartedly. I must mentioned the challenging and turbulent period of 2005, in which Gilgit had faced worst kind of law and order situation. Naturally, the tense situation of city caused deep stress and apprehensions among students but good aspect of the university was its peaceful and cordial atmosphere that did not permit exterior elements to disturb the peaceful environment of the campus. Of course credit goes to the faculty and management of KIU administration, but the most admirable and praise-worthy were the students who gave their best in maintaining discipline and order within the campus.

The Karakoram: Life in The United States or America is a fantasy to the most of us, you’ve dwelled that dream of many, how was it precisely?

Rahman Shah: In 2014, I was fortunate enough to be selected for the prestigious Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program. The program provided me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live and study in the United States of America for a year. As a mid-career professional, I had the privilege to study Public Policy Analysis and Public Administration at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, located at the esteemed University of Minnesota.

The program was designed to allow participants to study a subject of their own choice, and as part of the program, I had the opportunity to collaborate with my American counterparts in the county government of Hennepin County, Minnesota, as well as work at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) headquarters in New York.

Living in the USA was an unforgettable experience, and I would say that it truly is a land of opportunity. The education system is excellent, and the professional exposure and experiences I gained during my stay were invaluable. Life in America is fast-paced, and I learned the importance of hard work and discipline.

Overall, my time in America was a dream come true. It broadened my perspective, and I gained invaluable insights into American culture and society. I will always cherish the memories and experiences gained during my time in the USA.

The Karakoram: What would you like to confide to the youth of KIU or GB?

Rahman Shah: As someone who deeply believes in the potential of our youth, I would like to share some words of advice and encouragement to the students of KIU and the young people of Gilgit-Baltistan. Firstly, I want to stress the importance of hard work, dedication, and sincerity in everything that you do. Whether it’s your studies or any other aspect of your life, always strive to give your best and put in your utmost effort. Secondly, I want to emphasize the need for focus and determination. Set your goals high and work towards achieving them with a clear and unwavering vision.

As young people from mountainous communities, we have a unique cultural heritage and perspective that we should be proud of and strive to preserve. We should strive to understand and embrace new technologies and ideas, while also being respectful of our social norms and conventional wisdom. Moreover, we must be mindful of our environment and work towards becoming a more resilient community in the face of challenges, be they climatic or socio-economic.

As young entrepreneurs, activists, and community leaders, we have the potential to make a real difference in our society and contribute to sustainable development. So, let’s work together with determination, hard work, and resilience to create a better future for ourselves, our communities, and our region.

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Provision of Quality Education is the Top-most Priority of our Government

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Raja Azam Khan

Gilgit-Baltistan Education Minister Raja Azam Khan in an exclusive interview with the The Karakoram Magazine sheds light on challenges and issues related to education, proposed educational reforms of his government and future plans to tackle challenges of Covid-19

TKM : We congratulate you on assuming charge of Minister Education. What were some of the biggest challenges of the education system, when you took the reins of ministry?

Raja Azam Khan: Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to express my views about the education system and the current issues related to it. It’s a pleasure for me and I really appreciate that the Karakoram International University has launched a grand initiative to issue a monthly magazine in English “The Karakoram” which is covering a wide range of topics on local, national, and international issues. KIU has a principal role to play in this cause of introducing Gilgit Baltistan to the outside world. This magazine will open new vistas of economic prosperity in the region and would also be of great interest to the business community.

As far as educational challenges and issues are concerned, Quality and access to basic education is still a major issue in our rural areas and students of far flung areas face difficulties during harsh weather conditions. Only a few districts have emphasized the construction of secondary schools and colleges. As a result, beyond primary school, there is no permanent system of education for children. Hundreds of primary schools are lacking teachers. There is dire need to upgrade infrastructure of rural schools and also appoint competent teachers to enhance educational standards. Also, Gilgit-Baltistan is in dire need of professional and technical institutions and Women University or Sub Campus of Karakoram International University for women should also be established at earliest. Some districts of Gilgit-Baltistan have higher levels of literacy rate while some districts are lacking in education due to socio-economic issues. The situation of women education in Gilgit-Baltistan is also unsatisfactory and one the most pressing issue is high dropout rate of girls at primary level. It is also imperative to establish professional development centres for teachers to enhance their professional capability, recruit teachers on merit and legislation should be done to make teaching licence mandatory in all schools of Gilgit-Baltistan

TKM : In the PTI manifesto, Education reforms including modernisation of infrastructure and digitalization of education were a major priority. What is your government’s contribution to the enhancement of those reforms?

Raja Azam Khan : Education is the top priority of the current government. This can be estimated from the budget of millions of rupees allocated for education this year. The new education policy focuses on the provision of education and skills in line with employment opportunities and the use of technology in the education system. New schools and colleges will also be built to provide the best educational facilities to the students, while the existing schools are also being upgraded. Our mission is to educate and provide the best educational facilities to every student in the entire province and we are launching smart school programs in line with the requirements of modern times

We are also planning to trifurcate educational department of Gilgit-Baltistan into three separate directorates for the purpose of uniformity and qualitative improvement, at all levels of education.We are committed to establish professional and technical institutions in Gilgit-Baltistan and first ever medical college of Gilgit-Baltistan will be set initiated by our government.Prime Minister Imran Khan during his recent visit to Gilgit has also announced the first of its kind Ehsaas secondary education conditional cash transfer (CCT) programme for secondary school going children of deserving household. On the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, The Higher Education Commission has announced undergraduate scholarships for the students of Gilgit-Baltistan to study in top universities and educational institutions of Pakistan. The scholarship will cover tuition, hostel fee, and other education-related expenses amounting to a maximum of Rs240, 000 per year.

TKM : The PTI government has approved Single National Curriculum and Uniform education all over the country. What action does your ministry is taking to implement it in Gilgit-Baltistan?

Raja Azam Khan : One of the Promise made by the PTI government to the people before coming to power including the implementation of a ‘single national curriculum’ in the country, as Prime Minister Imran Khan believes that the current education system in the country is class-based and is a major source of causing a lot of problems within the society.    Single National Curriculum is a step in which there is one system of Education for all, in terms of curriculum, medium of instruction and a common platform of assessment so that all children have a fair and equal opportunity to receive high quality education. The government is developing a model textbook that will be distributed to provinces, public schools, private schools, and madrassas, with the authority to add or change it while adhering to the main points of the national curriculum. We are implementing the Single National Curriculum in all public, private schools as well as seminaries offering primary level education in its true spirit to end disparities in the education system.

TKM : How has your ministry tackled the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic and what is your take on future planning to meet the challenges of the new normal?

Raja Azam Khan : The education sector in Gilgit-Baltistan has been seriously affected by Covid-19 Pandemic and it has dismantled traditional educational patterns. While countries worldwide were shifting educational infrastructure from physical classes to online, we were facing an unprecedented crisis regarding teachers training, internet access and computer availability for students. We had  a responsibility to ensure strict implementation of Covid-19 related safety SOPs at schools and colleges and also minimize learning losses of the students, so education department initiated various initiatives to reach students through online teaching, delivering course resources at their door steps and motivating their parents to create a learning environment at home.

Education in our remote areas having patchy internet coverage suffered and our students had to face more difficulties as compared to students of metropolitan cities. Our government has expedited work on provision of 3G and 4G internet services for citizens of Gilgit-Baltistan and 4G cellular spectrum auction was approved recently and we are hopeful that fast internet connectivity will help youth in getting an online education in case of Covid lockdown. Education and learning have suffered substantially due to covid and our government is planning to revamp traditional mode of education and introduce digitisation in the educational system to meet the challenges of the future. 

TKM : What are the steps taken by your ministry to facilitate higher education institutions like Karakoram International University?  

Raja Azam Khan : As the Provincial Education Minister, I intend to make every effort to bring this great institution in line with the requirements of the modern age, and in this regard, I will make liaison with university authorities to provide full support from the provincial government. The acceptance of this university at the national and international levels is a testament to the fact that we are moving in the right direction. The government will assist the university authorities in establishing a university board in the manner of other universities and will do everything possible to provide the university with the infrastructural amenities as well scholarships to our needy students. Also we will formulate a mechanism to allocate funds in our provincial ADP for promotion of research at Karakoram International University so that our students can investigate causes of deprivation and guide us to formulate policies to alleviate poverty and other socio-economic issues. Also in the recently announced mega developmental package for Gilgit-Baltistan, our government in consultation with management of Karakoram International University has also approved funds for construction of a new academic block as well as other infrastructure facilities required by the University. Our government has also approved construction of a sports academy at Karakoram International University under Kamyab Jawan Program.

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